Even as residents allege that drivers take Re 1 to Rs 5 per pot for street supply which is supposed to be free, Metrowater says contract of the lorry owner can be terminated for this.
Metrowater is operating nearly 9,400 trips per day. Of the total trips operated, 6,500 trips are street supplies, which are provided free of charge. Remaining trips are supplied to residents who book for mobile water supply.
Ambika, a resident of SM Nagar in Teynampet said that lorry drivers demand Re 1 to Rs 2 depending on the length of the queue. “If the queue is long, they would charge more. We are a family of five and we need at least two buckets of water per member daily. Even though we pay money, we do not get sufficient water on some days,” she said.
She added that her family did not spend any money in 2018, during which many localities where poor people reside received water from public water pumps.
The case is similar in other parts of the city. In the Harbour area, residents have to shell out Rs 5 per bucket of water.
“Water tanker comes to our area every alternate day. There are three members in our family, but we have to manage with five buckets of water. I also go to nearby streets to fetch water if I need extra water. Even though we pay money, we have to wait for hours to get water,” Thamizh Selvi, a resident of Beach Fourth Lane in Harbour area said.
She added that her area is less affected by the water crisis as she gets water for daily chores. “Apart from lorry supply, our street has a water pump. But pumping water from it is a taxing job. So, I usually stick to the tanker supply,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vedhavalli, a resident of Cart Track Road in Velachery reminisced the previous year when she did not have to come to the streets and depend on tanker lorry. “We are charged Re 1 per bucket of water. We do not have any option other than paying money. Our family cannot afford to buy bubble top cans. Metrowater should increase the number of street supply lorries,” she added.
AX Sylvester, a former electrician and a resident of the housing board apartment in Egmore said that his street is too narrow for water tankers to enter. “We have to walk to other streets to fetch water. Our apartment has two borewells but none of them yields water. We use bubble top can water to drink and each can cost Rs 30. We are a five-member family and we need 10 buckets of water every day,” he said.
Sylvester added that piped water would come at the wee hours, forcing his family members to stay awake to fetch water from pipes.
When contacted, a Metrowater official said that tanker drivers should not collect money for water and if they do, their contract would be terminated.
“However, local politicians take control of the situation and they collect money from the residents. Whenever we receive complaints against such practices, our assistant engineers are taking action,” he explained. But a resident in Choolaimedu said that the politicians are conniving with some lorry drivers. They share the money collected from the residents. “If the local politician collects Rs 500, he would give Rs 100 to the driver.”
The situation is not better for the rich and upper-middle-class residents. “I had booked Metrowater tanker a few weeks ago. As we did not receive water on time, we bought water from private parties, costing Rs 14 per pot, for bathing and other chores,” KS Sridhar, a resident of T Nagar said.
Sridhar’s is a five-member family with an 84-year-old mother. “My aged mother needs more water. Sometimes, we had to use bubble top water to wash her,” he added.
In the past month, Sridhar had spent around Rs 4,000 for water and he said that he had never spent that much since 1989 after coming to T Nagar.
M Vishnupriya of Choolaimedu, who belongs to a middle-class family, said that she had spent around Rs 400 in two months to buy tanker water. “We share the water charges with other tenants. Street supply lorry visits our street regularly and water is supplied through a street pump. But, we could not stay at the house all the time, waiting for it. So we are depending on the tanker water,” she added.