While many citizens praised the tap water supply scheme, others pointed to issues they still face despite the 'landmark' project.
In 2016, the Telangana government launched its multi-crore safe potable drinking water project, Mission Bhagiratha.
Passing through the interiors of Telangana, one would easily come across huge, white-and-blue coloured tanks with Mission Bhagiratha inscribed on them in blue.
While many people are more than happy with what the initiative has achieved, there are some who have been raising concerns about it.
For L Malleshwari, a cotton cultivator in the Madhira Assembly constituency, the project has helped reduce her financial burden. She attributes her joy solely to the Mission Bhagiratha while plucking marigold flowers from her farm.
“In the Madhira constituency, we are delighted that drinking water has reached our homes, because a farmer’s primary struggle is for water. The money we used to spend on borewells is now used for miscellaneous expenses, including on our farms,” she told South First.
Anil Katta, a graduate-turned-farmer in Munugode, also expressed satisfaction with the tap water supply. Returning after ploughing his fields on his tractor, he said the water supply due to Mission Bhagiratha exceeded the needs of his family.
“In my family, we even use drums to store the water. This has eliminated the need for bore pumps in our fields,” he said, adding that he was happy that now muddy water flowing through the taps was a rare occurrence.
“Aside from the rainy season, we consistently enjoy the clear and reliable Mission Bhagiratha tap water. This was not the case six years back,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, amidst the fanfare for the much-touted Mission Bhagiratha, some citizens are still facing obstacles in accessing tap water from it, and others are worried about its hygiene.
Vijay Babu, a resident of Dharmapuri, highlighted a paradox. He stated that despite the town being situated beside the Godavari river, where access to fresh water should not be a challenge, residents are still grappling with water scarcity.
“The Telangana government’s Mission Bhagirath scheme, intended to provide tap water connections to every household, faces challenges in certain areas,” he told South First.
“Issues such as broken pipelines, road construction leading to pipe cuts, and building demolitions causing debris in pipelines are quite common in the region,” he added.
For S Lakshmi, a beedi worker from the Ensanpalle village on the outskirts of the Siddipet district, Mission Bhagiratha has eased the access to water, but she only uses it for domestic purposes.
“Even though we had a water connection before 2016, the water used to be supplied only once in three or four days. But now we get it every day at 7.30 am. However, the water is not clean enough for drinking. We use it for domestic purposes,” she said.
Her family has to shell out ₹500 per month to buy large bottles of drinking water from a nearby shop.
According to a Telangana government website, Mission Bhagiratha was conceived to provide 100 litres of water per capita per day (LPCD).
But P Srikanth (name changed) echoed Lakshmi’s words. “Before Mission Bhagiratha, the water used to be supplied every alternate day, but now it does come every day. But in an inconsistent way,” said the farmer from Chandlapur village, a 15-minute drive from Lakshmi’s home, where he lives with his family of five.
He explained, “If one day we get seven to eight pots of water one day, the next day we just get one to two pots of water. Earlier, it used to come only for 20-30 minutes. But since 15 November, the water has been consistent.”
He said he would not mind even if the regular water supply of late turned out to be an election gimmick.
“Earlier, the officials used to keep saying that the pipeline was broken or some repair was going on. In case of no water or if the supply is insufficient, we go to a nearby bore pump or approach people who have pumps. We tend to spend two to three hours a day when we have to bring the water,” said Srikanth, who harvests maize with his family.
Over 70 km away, P Raju of the Tekrial village on the outskirts of the Kamareddy district shared similar concerns.
He said that the Mission Bhagiratha water comes every day for nearly 10 minutes and fills around 12 pots.
“This is not enough for a family of four, so we fulfil our needs from the nearby bore pump. We use the Mission Bhagiratha water only for domestic purposes, and not for drinking. We get cans of 15 litres of water for ₹5 for drinking purposes,” said Raju.
The ambitious tapped water connection has made the lives of lakhs of women easier. It also earned laurels at the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress held in Nevada in the US in May this year.
In October, Telangana minister KT Rama Rao asserted that the Union government-initiated “Har Ghar Jal” programme had drawn inspiration from his state’s project.
But for someone like Bujji, a Banjara woman living in a tanda (tribal hamlet) nestled in the hills of Nalgonda, the scheme is nought.
“There is no water connection for us hill-dwellers. I walk to get water from nearby farm borewells,” she told South First while resting after hours of labour at a paddy farm along with a group of women.
She gets ₹300-400 for a day’s work, while men get ₹500-600. Poor monsoons ruined her three-acre paddy crop, compelling her to work as a farm help.
The mission’s steel taps are present in some places, but they only bring pessimism and not Bhagiratha water. This is the reality of Sujara, a private-school teacher in the Chelpur village of the Huzurabad district, and her fellow villagers.
“We haven’t got Baghiratha water yet. Tap water comes for an hour every day, so that is sufficient. But most of the villagers don’t use it for drinking. They buy mineral water cans at ₹5 each. The taps have been fitted and the pipelines laid, but no water has come yet,” remarked a disgruntled Sujara.
For Naveen Kumar, a resident of the Gudem village in the Andole Assembly segment of the Sangareddy district, the arrival of the Bhagiratha water is neither a boon nor a bane.
“We had a water supply before Bhagiratha, but only through pipelines from Manjeera (a river that flows through the Andole and Jogipet towns). So this Bhagiratha project is neither a plus nor a minus. Bhagiratha water comes for 30 minutes every morning. But we still depend on Manjeera water,” she said.