|The treatment and filtration unit inside the water vending kiosk near Loreto Convent, Ranchi. (Top) A passer-by quenches his thirst from a tap-jar, placed outside the counter as a philanthropic gesture, on Wednesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Water has just become worthwhile in two parched neighbourhoods of Ranchi.
As taps turn on barely a trickle this scorching summer, residents of ward Nos. 36 and 47 are feeling delighted to find a godsend counter that is offering 20 litres of shuddh peyojal for a paltry Rs 7. A Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) initiative, the two water kiosks are sponsored by Waterlife, a World Bank-funded agency working on similar projects across the country.
The lifeline is available in two time windows of 7am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm. Water is pumped from deep bore wells at the kiosks, purified mechanically and sealed into 20-litre jars fitted with a tap unit. The jar-tap unit has a one-time price of Rs 200, after which every refill of 20 litre is priced at just Rs 7.
Chief executive officer of RMC Manoj Kumar said that the twin counters in Madhukam and near Loreto Convent had received such overwhelming response since their debut over two months ago that civic mandarins were now planning expansion to all the 55 wards in the capital.
The kiosks have come as a big relief for residents, especially for the not-so-affluent who cannot afford costlier mineral water jars. Besides, this water is as good. Both sites have filtration, treatment and dispensation units. We are planning to replicate the model in all the remaining wards too, said Kumar.
Rough statistics reveal a daily customer count of 200-250 at ward No. 47, while the figure touches a high of 300 at ward No. 36 every time the sun turns tormentor.
Rajnish Kumar, who manages the kiosk near Loreto Convent, said they also play Good Samaritan by placing one free 20-litre jar outside for passers-by to quench their thirst every day. Yeh system bahut popular ho gaya hai (The system has become very popular), Rajnish said.
Snacks vendor Pritam Kumar nodded in agreement. Yeh bahut sahi system hai. Paani hi toh jeevan hai (This is the right system because water is life), he pitched in.
Pritam added that earlier street food vendors stored water from tube wells, but now they were regular customers at the kiosk. Pahle koi puchhta tha ki paani badhiya hai na, toh hum bolte the ke sadak kinare Bisleri chahiye ka? Par ab ungli dikha kar kah dete hai, paani wahan ka hai (Earlier, when someone asked whether the water was pure, I used to question whether the person wanted Bisleri on the roadside? Now, I just point my finger to the kiosk and say my water comes from there).
At Madhukam, not just the poor even the middle class, who can afford purifiers at home, are buying water from the kiosk. Nikhil Biswal, a resident, said: The taste is like mineral water and for my family of five, 20 litres is both good and cheap enough.
So, can a vending counter be a substitute for household purifiers?
Theek hi toh hai, na safai ka jhamela na maintenance ka kharcha. Humko toh aaram hai. (The system is good and easy. There is no trouble of maintenance), answered homemaker Sarita Choudhary.