Hunger strike triggers water woes in hills

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, Sept. 15: Residents of the hill town will have to do without water for what looks like an extended period — thanks to the ongoing indefinite hunger strike of the DGHC’s contractual employees.

About 50 employees of the DGHC’s public health engineering (PHE) department, which supplies water to the Kalimpong Municipality area, are part of the 1,500 members of the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangatan, who are on hunger strike demanding regularisation of jobs.

The Sangatan is affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

Anil Chhetri, the executive engineer of the PHE department here, said the department was unable to supply water to the residents because of the strike. “Only the subdivisional hospital is being supplied with water as a special case.”

Asked why alternative arrangements were not being thought of to ensure supply to the residents, Chhetri said the agitating employees would not allow the department to work on those lines in the present situation. “We have very few regular staff. Most of the staff engaged in the supply like plumbers, welders and supervisors are on strike.”

With things not looking impressive, the hill residents are being forced to make their own arrangements.

A container of 1,000 litres of water costs between Rs 150-300 in the market, depending on the distance between the source and the place of residence. “I will have to shell out Rs 200 on alternate days to meet my needs,” said a resident of B.L. Dixit Road.

The water woes come at a time when the residents have been complaining about the quality of water they have been getting for the past one week. “I couldn’t even think of drinking the water even after boiling it,” said Rita Rai, a housewife, pointing finger at muddy water.

The PHE engineer admitted that the quality of water had been affected by a number of reasons, including snapping of pipelines at many places because of the recent landslides, heavy deposit of silt in the reservoirs and overloaded filter.

“Intake structures at Neora, Relli and Thukchuk have also suffered heavy damage,” he said.

Chhetri said the muddy water was the result of makeshift repairs of the pipelines. Efforts were, however, on to completely restore the snapped lines and clean up the reservoirs as well.

“We have issued a work order for the clean-up. It will take time though because it will first have to be done on a trial basis,” he added.

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