Are private water tankers fleecing public during this dry season?
R LESTER MAKANG
UKHRUL, 8th Apr: Inarguably, a vast majority of people in Ukhrul town will have to contend with the prevailing water scarcity crisis until the rainy season sets in from May onwards.
It is during this lean period that the services of private water tankers invariably come in heavy demand every year. While the service of these private players giving a stopgap solution to many water-starved households is duly acknowledged, the way these private tanker owners run their business also seems to not go down well with many of their customers.
Seasonal parch of local ponds, streams and natural springs is forcing many households to buy water private commercial tankers, even as others spend sleepless nights to fetch a few buckets of water, as majority of population in the town's periphery remains unconnected to the public pipeline water supply facilities.
The typical water scarcity that a greater part of the township witnesses during this period is one crisis that adversely affects the residents across different economic strata. In this backdrop, it is increasingly felt among the public that the spiralling costs of water supplied by any private water tankers have surpassed the capability of many impoverished households in the town.
As the private water tankers charge somewhere from Rs 300 to Rs 350 to supply 500 litres of water, a household, if it were to purchase 1000 litres of water, has to shell out around Rs 600-700, depending on how the bargain is made.
"This is too high a price but we have no other choice or else, we will have to go without water throughout this dry period", a town resident said.
While some said that water tankers are doing a brisk business this season in the town, others wanted to describe the exorbitant price of water as 'a daylight robbery'.
A highly placed source disclosed to The People's Chronicle that during this time, many private commercial water tankers from Ukhrul town collect water from Shirui water sources on a daily basis.
There is a minimum tax rate fixed by the local village authority for water collection from the sources for all commercial purposes, it said.
"For water tankers having capacity of 10,000 litres, the lump-sum tax is only Rs 500 per trip, while for all smaller suppliers like DI vehicles ferrying 2 or 3 Sintex containers up to the capacity of 4000 litres or more, the tax is Rs 200 per trip as laid down by the local authority. There are even instances when only Rs 150 is collected", it said.
According to another resident, the buyers did understand that water tankers have to incur some requisite expenses on fuel and vehicle usage charges. "But then, isn't the service charge still a bit too high?" she wondered.
Now, a simple arithmetic will give one a clearer picture of why the public consider the water price as exorbitant. Calculating on a Rs 350 per 500 litre basis, a water carrier having a 4000 litre capacity on delivery will collect Rs 2600, excluding Rs 200 tax in a single trip.
In the case of bigger tankers, a 10,000-litre capacity tanker will collect Rs 6500 after deducting Rs 500 tax in a single trip.
However, the expenses pertaining to fuel and vehicle usage charges are not taken into consideration here.