Railway sends waterTrain, UP sees politics

A water train waits at Bundelkhand's Jhansi railway station. But the Akhilesh Yadav government says although the region is going through a water crisis, it doesn't need such help from the Centre.

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 6.05.16
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Lucknow, May 5: A water train waits at Bundelkhand's Jhansi railway station. But the Akhilesh Yadav government says although the region is going through a water crisis, it doesn't need such help from the Centre.

The BJP, the Uttar Pradesh government believes, is "doing politics of water train" to prepare the ground for the Assembly elections due next year.

The railways have sent one train of 10 wagons from Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh, to Jhansi, 550km away. Another water train is expected in Mahoba, also in Bundelkhand, from Rawatbhata, 450km away in Rajasthan, by Friday.

But Alok Ranjan, the chief secretary of Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh, made things clear.

"We don't need it," Ranjan said. "There is water crisis in Bundelkhand but we don't think that a water train is needed at the moment. We are capable of supplying our own water tankers to rural areas of the region."

Ranjan said it was impractical to transport water from Jhansi or Mahoba railway stations to villages located at a distance of 25-50km, when water was available within 5km.

Uttar Pradesh public works minister Shivpal Singh Yadav said the water train reached today without any demand from the state government. "We are not going to receive it. Bundelkhand doesn't need any such thing from the Centre."

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hardly concerned about the problems of the people of Bundelkhand. "It is all politics for him. The BJP is preparing the ground for the 2017 Assembly polls by such gimmicks. But they must know that the Samajwadi Party would repeat the victory of 2012," Yadav added.

Ajay Shukla, district magistrate of Jhansi, added another twist to the controversy. "I personally visited Jhansi railway station and found that there is no water in the wagons," Shukla told the local media.

Manoj Sinha, minister of state for railways, told reporters the decision to send the trains followed a request from some Bundelkhand MPs. "Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had received several requests from the MPs and local people for water trains. One such train has already reached Jhansi. The railways will supply it (water) on the demand of the local government," Sinha said.

Bhairon Prasad Mishra, a BJP MP from the region, accepted that he and many other MPs wanted water trains for Bundelkhand. "We have seen the Indian Railways doing commendable work by sending similar water trains to Maharashtra's Latur. People are happy there. This was the reason that we had requested the railway minister to send similar water trains to our region. But one such train that reached Jhansi is standing in the yard. The state government should think about the problem of the people who need water in drought-hit Bundelkhand."

He said villagers had to travel 5-10km every day to get water because all the lakes had dried up this summer. "We wanted to provide them water in their own village. But the state government doesn't want to understand this," Mishra added.

It is said that there were thousands of ponds and lakes in the seven districts of Bundelkhand two decade ago. But most of them have dried up because of perennial drought.