The ‘water train’ dispatched by Indian Railways as a humanitarian gesture for the parched Latur district in Maharashtra, carrying around 550,000 litres of drinking water, reached here on Tuesday, officials said.
The Indian Railways dispatched the 10-wagon train carrying the precious liquid of life from Miraj in western Maharashtra for Latur city in the Marathwada region.
The train, that reached here around 4 a.m. after covering a 375 km journey, was welcomed with cheers and a sense of relief by Latur mayor, top civil and police officials even as tight security was deployed around the railway station.
The offloading of the water began at a dried up well belonging to a local farmer near the railway station, after which it will be transported by pipes to a filtration plant.
After flitering it and making the water potable, it will be sent to the intended remote villages in tankers, who are eagerly waiting with kilometers-long queues of multicoloured plastic and steel buckets, pots and pitchers lined up by the hopefuls awaiting the water.
The initiative was taken by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu a few days ago as many parts of his home state reeled under severe water crises, especially villages in Latur district, which has a population of around 2.45 crores.
Following Prabhu’s directives, 50 tank wagons, similar to the ones used to transport oil and milk, were sent to Kota workshop (Rajasthan) on April, they were thoroughly cleaned and sent for the onward journey to Sangli.
The IR is planning to make a few more similar need-based trips to quench the thirst of Latur villages, the schedules of which are not yet finalised.
Currently, around 15,000 villages in the state, a majority of them in Latur, Beed and Osmanabad district, are gripped by an acute water shortage.
To combat stray incidents of violence, in many parts, police have imposed prohibitory orders till May 3. Besides, public water storage tanks and reservoirs have been provided armed guards.
Similarly, villagers in some areas trek more than two km daily for a pot of water and keep their domestic water stocks under lock-and-key, schools have been shut down, marriages and other social events have been cancelled or postponed and agriculture activities at a complete standstill.