For all those travelling on the Harbour line and those coming from Kalwa-Kasara/Karjat using local trains; carry water bottles. This comprises more than 10-12 lakh people or so who travel daily in local trains from these stations; and yet rail authorities haven’t informed commuters travelling in sweltering heat; about it. There is a shortage of Packaged Drinking Water at railway stations right up to May 31 and there is little that the rail authorities are able to do now.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which produces packaged drinking water at their Ambernath unit; has stated in a letter to Central Railway that since May 3 there has been a shortage of Rail Neer supplied at the various railway stations which was to last till May 20. This however has extended till May 31.
The rail passenger unions are angry as neither the IRCTC nor Railway authorities mentioned this to the commuters despite half a month of May has gone by. According to sources in the railways, on May 17, the IRCTC wrote a letter to Central Railway talking about the curtailment at railway stations for supply of Rail Neer.
‘Due to sudden increase in demand of Rail Neer packaged drinking water (PDW), owing to prevailing excessive heat wave and with the production reaching maximum level of around 1.74 lakh bottles per day of Rail Neer at Ambernath; it will not be feasible to supply Rail Neer at below stations from May 3 to May 20. It has been decided that the curtailment for supply of Rail Neer has been extended up to May 31’, reads a letter written by IRCTC to Central Railway.
All the railway stations falling under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus-Panvel on Harbour line, the stations between Kalwa to Kasara/Karjat (excluding Kalyan), Lonavala and Igatpuri are the ones severely affected by dearth of Rail Neer. While the Harbour line carries more than 10 lakh daily commuters or so; another 1-2 lakh travel from the extended metropolitan region of Mumbai in local trains.
The letter further states that it is therefore requested to issue necessary instructions to the concerned authorities of Mumbai Division and catering licenses of stations as mentioned above for making alternate arrangement. ‘This arrangement is temporary in nature and necessary intimation for restoration will be communicated once the conditions are normalized,’ added the letter.
However rail passenger associations claim that this is unfair on part of the rail authorities for not informing people about it. “This summer people experienced heat wave and Rail Neer isn’t available at railway stations. There is shortage of PDWs at railway stations, the water vending machines are shut and pyaus are unclean. What is the arrangement that railways are making to quench people’s thirst?” questioned Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.
The Central Railway too, internally asked the probability to check if five other PDW brands can be made available at railway stations for which tenders were also called. “Considering the soaring temperature we are looking at means to ensure supply of sufficient quantities of approved brands of PDWs at these stations unti supply of Rail Neer is restored,” said senior officials from Central Railway.
The IRCTC produces 14,500 cartons of packaged drinking water with each containing 12 bottles of 1 litre each. All these are supplied and distributed to static unit owners. These are produced at Ambernath plant from where they are distributed. In March as well this issue of shortage in availability of Rail Neer PDWs had cropped up.