They form an essential part of the economy of the region
In the rain-shadow region of Marathwada in Maharashtra, everybody loves a good drought. Especially if one is part of the so-called “tanker economy”.
There are 76 municipal areas in the eight districts of Marathwada. On paper, there is piped drinking water facility everywhere. In reality though, hardly any area gets a daily supply of drinking water.
Government documents show that each of the 76 municipal areas get water on a variable basis — from every alternative day to once in a month.
In Ahmadpur municipality of Latur district, water comes once in every 15-20 days. That has been the status since early November.
In rural areas of the region, the government provides water through tankers. There are some villages which get water from more than 100 kilometres (km) away despite the fact that a major water reservoir is located within a radius of 25-30 km.
“There is water within a distance of 25-30 km. Why do they (the officials) claim to bring water from a distance?” asks Bhause Babu Rao, 55, of Pusegaon village in the Paithan tehsil of Aurangabad district. On paper, this village gets water from 100 km away.
A similar story is told in Sonawari village, also in Paithan tehsil, which gets water from 116 km away. Village residents explained that local lawmakers deployed their tankers to provide water.
“They get water from a nearby leaking pump in the night and supply the water in the day,” says a local who doesn’t wish to be named.
Recently, the government increased the rate of tankers without any significant demand. It seems to be an arbitrary decision to help tanker contractors to make more money. The rate of tankers increased from Rs 2 to Rs 4.30 per km. Besides, the everyday charge of tankers increased from Rs 158 to Rs 338 based on different capacities.
According to the disaster management unit of Aurangabad division, 1,050 tankers were deployed in Marathwada till the end of January, 2019. The number would go up by 5,000 by the month of May. The current budget allocation for tanker supply is around Rs 50 crore. As the number of tankers would increase in coming days, the budget would also shoot up.
The business of tankers is not confined to government supply. Private players are also emerging in municipal areas.
There are many people in municipal areas hiring private tankers to meet out their need. They may cough up more than the government’s fixed price.
The tanker business would certainly increase in the forthcoming election days, says a village resident.
“Tanker contractors in Marathwada are usually from Sangli. And the manufacturers of tankers are from Rahuri Tehsil in Ahmadnagar. Their units are located near sugar factories,” said Suhas, a local scribe who summed up Marathwada’s tanker politics.
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