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Tanker operators sense stormy waters ahead

J.S. Ifthekhar
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The Water Board’s decision to engage new tankers on hiring-basis is causing a lot of heartburn among the existing operators. They see the move as an attempt to virtually throw them out of business.

The Board has planned to hire 50 tankers to supply drinking water in the GHMC areas on a fixed payment of Rs.48,000 per month for a 5,000-litre capacity and Rs. 63,000 for 10, 000-litre capacity deliveries. They are supposed to make 8 trips a day or cover a minimum of 2,000 km per month. Presently, there are about 600 tankers which make both payment and free trips. They are now paid Rs. 240 for each payment trip and Rs. 215 for a free trip. So far 26 tanker owners have applied under the new hire scheme.

Though the stated objective of engaging new tankers is to meet the increased water demand in imminent summer, the actual intention appears to be to put the existing tanker owners in place for holding the Board to ransom with frequent strike calls. The tanker operators feel the Board’s move would render them jobless.

“The new tankers will be given preference in allotment of trips and the existing ones will be sidelined,” says Imran Khan, advisor, HMWSSB Water Tanker Owners' Joint Action Committee.

Last summer, the Board operated 2,000 trips a day and on some days this figure went up to as high as 3,000. However, on a normal day, the number of tanker trips ranges from 1,000 to 1,500.

The Water Board is presently incurring an expenditure of about Rs. 50,000 a month on tankers, the same amount that has been proposed under the new hire scheme. Many tanker owners are also unhappy with the newly-introduced PIN system for better delivery. Once a customer books a tanker, a secret number is sent to him through SMS. On delivery, he has to reveal the secret PIN to the tanker driver. Only on intimating the PIN at the filling station, does the tanker gain eligibility for the next trip.

“The tanker owners can’t manipulate filling station managers anymore,” says an official. The Board maintains that it has no plans to do away with the existing operators.

Water Board’s decision to engage new tankers on hiring basis is causing a lot of heartburn among the existing operators, as they see the move as an attempt to virtually throw them out of business

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