Commuters not happy over hike in cost of bottled water

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation’s (IRCTC) decision to increase the price of a one-litre Railneer water bottle from Rs. 12 to Rs. 15 has not gone down well with commuters and activists.

IRCTC’s announcement was made a few days ago. According to staff at the IRCTC’s bottling plant in Palur near Chengalpattu, the hike will be effected across the nation and the primary reason for it is the increase in the price of raw material – perform plastic, the price of which is determined by petroleum prices.

Also, with the exception of Chennai, IRCTC’s profits from sales of Railneer in other parts of Tamil Nadu, have been dismal. Costs incurred in despatching Railneer to Madurai and as far as to Tirunelveli and even the Jolarpettai sector are very high, and returns from the sales do not cover them, staff members said.

With the proposed new price, which will come into effect from the first week of December, the corporation will still not make a profit, but will also not suffer the kind of heavy losses they have in the past, they added.

The staff members also said that the last time the price was hiked was four years ago, in July 2008, from Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 per one-litre bottle.

Only a couple of brands in the private sector provided water of a quality on a par with Railneer, and they sold one-litre bottles for between Rs. 15 and Rs. 20, they added.

Many commuters at Tambaram railway station, both at the suburban and main line platforms, were still not aware of the proposed hike, but were uniformly of the opinion that buying Railneer was the only option in kiosks and mobile shops on platforms.

The commuters added that purchasing bottled water should not be their only option for access to clean drinking water, and that every station should have public water fountains.

“On some long distance trains, Railneer is already sold at Rs. 15,” said C. Malar, a commuter.

“Water is a basic right. Even if the price of raw material increases, the government should extend subsidies on water,” said P. Viswanathan, a civic activist. He added that this move would result in private companies too, increasing their prices.

The Palur plant, established in 2010, caters to the Southern, South Western and South Central sections of the railways and produces 10,000 cartons of Railneer everyday with each carton containing 12 one-litre bottles. The plant has a capacity to produce 1.8 lakh litres every day, officials added.

IRCTC produces a total of 3.8 lakh one-litre bottles every day across the country.

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