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Where a 'mafia of valve men' thrives

Shilpa CB, DNA  

Bangalore: Water tankers frequently visit LIC colony in Jeevanbhimanagar. Let down by the water board, residents of the 535 houses in the colony have been relying on tankers for over a year now. Even on watering days, water trickles from the ground level reservoir two kilometres away but often stops in half an hour without warning.

It was a different story a couple of years ago. Then they had enough water.

"I've been living here since 1992. For over a year now, we've been getting only 8 to 12 kilo litres a month. Our family of five needs about 20 kilolitres per month. Yesterday, we received 100 litres," said MR Nair, a resident of the locality.

There is no meaning in asking how many minutes the water comes. The pressure is so low that it makes a mockery on watering days.

It's the same story everywhere. "Water comes for about half an hour and stops. We've to pay for tankers," said Aishwarya Ramkumar, a resident. MS Anand, president of the residents' forum, is among those who spend days waiting for tankers, submitting petitions to the water board and discussing ways to get the attention of board engineers. "We have to buy tanker water. For half a tanker, we pay Rs300. Complaining is futile," he added.

Earlier, water used to be pumped from reservoirs to a tank near the board office and then channelled to different areas. But now, it flows directly from the reservoirs. Though there are two pumps, only one is used. So it takes nearly one-and-half hours, instead of 20 minutes, for the water to cover 1.5km. These issues have been raised but the board has failed to address them, residents said.

Complaints end up in the board's register. Representatives make customary calls, assure action but nothing changes. "We don't want assurances, we want practical solutions, action," Anand said.

On Wednesday night, he complained that they did not get their rightful share even on a watering day. Till Thursday noon, the promise was not kept.

When contacted, engineer H Srinivas Reddy gave the standard response: "As it is at the tail end, water is less. If you give the house number, we will look into it. I will go personally and check."

According to information residents unearthed with the help of RTI applications, the locality is supposed to get 25 lakh litres every alternate day. Even water board records show the same numbers. However, that is only on paper. The water goes missing while flowing from the reservoir near HAL's aeroengines department to the locality.

"The distance is less than two kilometres. There are multiple valves on the way. It is obvious where it goes," says Narayan P, vice-president of the residents' forum.

Residents have employed a watchman to ensure the valves that facilitate flow to the colony are not tampered with. That too has not worked. A flow meter to monitor the quantity entering the colony was promised by local MLA Raghu. That remained elusive. "If there was a meter, we could have got an account of how much water is released and how much actually flows here. The individual meters are not accurate. The dial turns even if wind enters the pipes. The billing system is not satisfactory either," said Anand.

"This is the only city where I have seen valve men mafia," a resident says, requesting anonymity. "We have been seeing the same valve men for the last three decades. The one who controls the area has become so wealthy that he has three SUVs, property, houses and gold. His ill-gotten wealth is no secret. Why, he has not been transferred at all in the last 30 years," a resident said.

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