Those who travel by rail in India are probably aware that mineral water bottles on railway stations and aboard trains are way too costly, and drinking any other water on stations is never safe. Well, in Andhra Pradesh a new initiative has been launched to combat this. Self Help Groups (SHGs) women will now run reverse osmosis (RO) water plants in railway stations across the state and sell mineral water to rail passengers at affordable rates.
The Vijayawada SHG was trying to get into the water business after trying their hand in maize and paddy procurement. The decision from the railway ministry in their favour finally came at a meeting with representatives from various states in Delhi on Thursday.
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C Kutumbha Rao, deputy chairman of the state planning board, told TOI, “AP would facilitate the SHG-run water business under joint venture project with the railway ministry. Each RO plant is estimated to cost Rs 3 lakh which is to be funded by the state government. The plant will be installed on any one of the platforms in the railway stations itself enabling the SHG women to 300 ml of water after treatment at Re 1.”
Currently, IRCTC sells each Rail Neer bottle in the railway stations of Rs 20, which might seem a bit steep to quite a few of us. With the new launch ahead, the SHG will sell at least 30,000 litres of treated water to the large number of passengers who pass through the stations.
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If these terms fly off, it would be the first of its kind in entire south India. The only major concern is the Krishna River from where the Vijayawada railway station will be getting water, which is likely to be in danger as the river goes dry almost every year due to the effect of Almatti dam. For example, this year, the water level dropped to a low of 4.5 ft over the stipulated levels of 13 ft at the Prakasam Barrage.
For those of you who don’t know what SHG or Self Help Group is, as the name suggests, it is the name given to Indian village-based financial intermediary committees. Each group typically comprises of 10 to 20 local women or men. A group is generally programmed to self-help the rural poor in providing employment opportunities and help them in building infrastructure.
Feature Image Credit: indiatoday.intoday.in