Poor Forced to Shop for Water in Telangana

by J Deepti Nandan Reddy, originally posted on April 21, 2016


HYDERABAD: Among the many ironies produced by the current drought across 10 states, by the Centre’s reckoning, is the story of B Manemma. She’s a migrant worker from drought-ravaged Mahbubnagar in Telangana and is engaged in building a water pipeline from Ibrahimpatnam to Hyderabad, where the thirsting middle class is getting restive about a water crisis they have not seen before. Her village is not far from river Krishna, the waters of which are tapped to quench Hyderabad’s thirst.

Bottled Up and How

Take the case of Bhimsha Chitali, who  works as a labourer at Kudalahangara village at Kalaburagi in Karnataka where the temperature has been hovering around 44°C. He is forced to buy packaged drinking water.

Rs 200

Actual earning under MGNREGS, though he is entitled to Rs 234 a day. Also, wages are credited only once a week.

Rs 80

Spent by Bhimsha on buying four litres of packaged drinking water each day because of lack of availability and access to potable water.

Rs 120

Alone left for other necessities.

Rs 2,400

Bhimsha ends up spending each month on bottled water.

Manemma and her husband and their two children buy water every day. “We don’t get drinking water at our work site,” she says. “So we buy canned water and fill it in bottles and bring it to the site. If it’s not enough, we have to buy a few sachets more.” It sets back the family of four, who abandoned their small acre of land and migrated to Ibrahimpatnam on the outskirts of Hyderabad, by about Rs 1,000 a month.

No one is harder hit by the water scarcity across 10 states of India than migrant workers who have to spend a good proportion of their wages on bottled water of whatever quality. In a study of coping costs of accessing water, IIT Madras researchers R K Amit and Subash S found that a low-income family may spend as high as 15 per cent of its income on water. The coping costs for households with no access to piped water were assessed at Rs 658 in a city like Chennai.

In crisis-hit Hyderabad, for instance, a middle-class family of four has to shell out at least Rs 2,000 per month to buy drinking water. The situation is worse on the outskirts and for migrant workers like Manemma. To a migrant dailywager in Hyderabad, the going rate of Rs 400 per day appears like a princely sum. But then work is available at best for ten days a month, and then a good part of the earnings go to buying water. “After the rent, the food and the water, what can we save? We thought we could save, but who knew,” said Chinna Chennaiah, a migrant construction labourer.

The plight of recent migrants is particularly grim. They have no claim to the water supplied by the water utilities. That means they have to buy their water. And the drought being a seller’s market, prices of 20-litre water cans have inched up to Rs 50-70 per can in the droughtscape of India.

The drought has also rid Hyderabad of its niceties. In the past, anyone thirsty could duck into an Irani restaurant and have a free glass of water. But Hyderabad’s famed and dwindling Irani cafes do not offer free water any more if you aren’t ordering a cup of tea. Priced at Rs 13.

Unrelenting Heat Wave

The Meteorological Department on Wednesday issued a warning saying heat wave conditions are likely to prevail in some areas in Telangana and Rayalaseema at least until Friday. It also signalled severe heat wave-like conditions in parts of Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar.

Kuruvai Crop Faces Threat

The impact of the dry conditions in Karnataka is being felt in tail-end areas of Cauvery delta. Underscoring the situation in the upper riparian State, farmers in Nagapattinam district have ruled out the possibility of taking up Kuruvai cultivation this year.

Learn More