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Wednesday , May 24 , 2000
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Loco emotion -- excited staff drive water train to Saurashtra


BHARUCH, MAY 23: Tuesday morning; a crowd had gathered at the Bharuch railway station to watch the goods train set off. Chief minister Keshubhai Patel himself was there to flag it off. With fanfare and jubilation among the onlookers, the train set off. Unusual treatment for a lowly goods train, perhaps, but it was carrying an unusual -- and priceless -- cargo: water. The first full-fledged water train was on its way to the drought-hit areas of Saurashtra.

For engine driver V Venkataraman, it was a great day. Among those in Saurashtra who were finding it hard to get drinking water were Venkataraman's own parents. ``I am not only taking the water for my parents but for thousands of parents who are struggling for drinking water,'' he said as he prepared to leave.

This was the first time in his nine years as an engine driver that Venkataraman was on a humanitarian mission. ``It is really different. Imagine how much misery would be reduced once this train reaches Saurashtra,'' he remarked. Though hailing from the southern part of the country, Venkataraman was born and brought up in Rajkot.

``My parents and I have been in Saurashtra for years and I know what shortage of drinking water means,'' he says.

The same sentiments were echoed by assistant driver Manoj, assistant engineer S K Yadav and chief loco inspector S A Khan. ``It is a privilege for us that we are the ones taking this train to Saurashtra,'' they chorus through the sound of the klaxon. And for train guard A Petergate and senior khalasi Suresh P, it will be a desperate wait to arrive at the destination. ``We just want this train to fly and reach its destination. We'll feel so proud when a sea of humanity receives us at the destination!,'' said Petergate. ``Join us to see it,'' he invites this reporter.

The crowd that has assembled is equally enthusiastic. ``We were just waiting for this train, so crucial for the water perched region, to start from here right since early morning,'' says a resident, Mukundbhai.

For some Bharuch residents, it was a great moment as the water from the Narmada Nagar was being taken to the water-starved areas of Saurashtra.

``The Narmada with which we are deeply associated is going to Saurashtra as a life-line for thousands. It really makes us feel happy,'' commented a senior citizen of Bharuch, Rashidbhai. Even the CM was moved by the gesture as he announced that the ``water train was a testimony of the strong will of the people of Gujarat to fight unitedly against the extremes of nature.''

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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