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Train brings 'charnamrut' of Narmada to Saurashtra

The Times of India News Service

RAJKOT: Narmada waters finally reached Rajkot on Wednesday morning in a 19-tanker train. As many as 40 water tankers will supply this water a similar number of villages in Rajkot district. Each railway tanker has a capacity of around 20,000 litres.

After agreeing to send 19 rakes each to Rajkot, Surendranagar and Jamnagar, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel termed the Narmada water as 'charnamrut' (holy water with which the feet of deity is washed and then taken as a blessing).

Water tankers have been sent to all the 14 talukas in Rajkot district. The train tankers arrived at Rajkot around 10.45 am. Earlier 19 wagons were disconnected at Surendranagar and 19 were sent to Jamnagar. The water-filling operation began around 12 noon when implementation committee chairman Vijay Rupani, Mayor Manjulaben Patel, Rajkot-3 legislator Madhubhai Babariya and district collector A K Rakesh offered puja at the Madhapar yard. Maharaj Dinesh Dave performed the rituals. Relief commissioner P V Trivedi was conspicuous by his absence.

While six villages in Rajkot taluka would get Narmada water, three villages each in Wankaner, Jetpur, Dhoraji, Gondal, Lodhika, Kotdasanghani and Padhadhari would get the same. Two villages at Upleta, Jamkandorna, Morbi and Tankara; four in Jasdan taluka and one in Maliya Miyana would receive the 'charnamrut'.

Water from the wagons was transferred to 10,000 litre-capacity tankers through five diesel generators.

While the government authorities heaved a sign of relief as the train finally came to Rajkot, the worries of tanker operators had just began. One fo them whom this correspondent spoke to at the yard said, "Payment of over fifty per cent of our dues is delayed. We have to run after the authorities for the balance. Only after producing the kilometre certificate do we get the dues. On some occasions, the full amount is not paid as the authorities dispute the kilometres travelled by us."

Another contractor had this to say on condition of anonymity: "There are times when we have to take a small detour as either the road is broken or is under repair. These things are not taken into consideration at the time of payment."

Surprisingly, no fixed rates have been decided for the tanker operators. "Only an oral agreement is reached," complained another operator, adding, "The real problem arises when the local administration runs out of money. Then the payments are delayed for long period."

Speaking on the occasion, Rajkot collector Rakesh said, "Had the Wankaner pipeline not been installed, a time would have come when the people of Rajkot would have had to migrate."

Rakesh said these were temporary means to solve the water crisis. He stressed the need to solve the problem once and for all. "The civic body and the Water Supply Board are spending huge amounts on electricity charges for running pumps at the Wankaner bore. If the cost of laying the pipeline is also taken into consideration, the amount adds to a lot of money," the collector said.

Now that the train has finally reached Saurashtra, questions are being raised whether 19 tankers would be enough to quench the thirst of the region. Further, people are wondering was the train not sent rescue earlier.

A senior Water Supply Board official confided in this correspondent that the welcome exercise was like "rubbing salt on wound".

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