Bhubaneswar/Cuttack, March 22: On World Water Day, taps ran dry in several areas of the twin cities as employees of two government departments let flow their spirit of agitation.
Water supply was snapped after contractual employees of the Public Health Engineering Organisation (PHEO) and Rural Water Supply and Sanitation went on strike today.
By the time the agitation was called off in the evening following a discussion with government officials, residents in the two cities had suffered immeasurably.
Housing and urban development minister Debi Prasad Mishra convened a meeting of the senior officials of PHEO, the rural water supply organisation and representatives of the five employees’ unions to resolve the issue.
The strike caught many such as homemaker Kananbala Swain, 48, a resident of Ganga Nagar in Unit-VI, Bhubaneswar, off guard.
“We did not know about the agitation and so, did not stock water. We had to bring water from our neighbour’s house. They have a boring well.”
Swain’s son Subhakanta, 21, said: “Water supply stopped suddenly. If the agitation continues, we will be in trouble. There is a tube well and an open well in our lane but they are almost defunct.”
Partha Sarathi Biswal, 32, a social activist and Chandrasekharpur resident, blamed the administration for the situation.
“The demands of the employees should have been met to save us from trouble,” he said. Sources in the PHEO said more than 50 per cent of Bhubaneswar had been affected as water supply from Mundali treatment plant was disrupted after temporary workers snapped the power connection.
Areas such as IRC Village, Nayapalli, Jayadev Vihar, Baramunda, Rental Colony, Baramunda Housing Board Colony, Bharatpur, Kalinga Nagar, Jagannath Vihar, Srikshetra Vihar, Paiknagar, Ganga Nagar, Siripur, Chandrasekharpur, Niladri Vihar, Sailashri Vihar and Railway Colony were severely affected.
Water supply in Cuttack was partly affected by the agitation. Savita Moharana, a homemaker, had a harrowing time completing her daily chores because water supply stopped in the morning.
“I was shocked when I found that there was no water in the tap. I had forgotten to turn on the motor pump last evening and there was not a single drop of water at home,” said the 35-year-old Rajendra Nagar resident.
Savita wasn’t the only one. Many others in Rajendra Nagar had a similar experience.
The United Employees’ Association launched cease work on their three-point charter of demands, which include regularisation of contractual employees, enhancement of retirement age from 58 to 60 years and abolition of work charge posts (jobs without pension benefits).
“We have been forced to go on strike,” said general secretary Manoj Mohanty of the Pipe Water Workers’ Union.
Engineer-in-chief (urban, public health) Bibekananda Mohapatra said: “We restored water supply in Cuttack by afternoon when 335 of the 504 agitating workers had joined work.”
Sources said while there were around 800 contractual employees in Bhubaneswar, there were 250 in Puri.