The staff of Sathya Sai Drinking Water Scheme have gone on strike to demand the release of their held up salaries of the last 15 months.
ANANTAPUR: Nearly 900 villages in the district are being deprived of drinking water supply for the past nine days as the staff of a protected water scheme have been on strike demanding release of their pending wages for the last 15 months.
Water is supplied to the villages under the Sathya Sai Drinking Water Scheme, a project executed by the Sathya Sai Trust and handed over to the State government. The scheme covers nearly 900 fluoride-hit villages spread in 12 Assembly constituencies of the district. Around 15 lakh people are getting protected water under the scheme.
About 75 million litres per day (MLD) water is purified and supplied to the fluoride-hit villages under the scheme. The operation of the scheme was awarded to a private firm, which employed 572 staff. The main source of water for the scheme is the Chitravathi balancing reservoir, from which water is drawn, purified and supplied to the villages. Apart from Chitravathi Balancing Reservoir, the other sources of water supply include Penna Ahobilam Balancing Reservoir, Penna river at Tadipatri, Pamidi and High Level Canal. Four summer storage tanks were also constructed at Gadekal, Pappur, Konakondla and Godiselapalli.
People are forced to draw water from borewells or buy packaged drinking water, which everyone can not afford. “Though we have a borewell, we can not depend on it in view of the fluoride content in the groundwater,’’ P Leelavathi, from Narpala said.
No salaries for the past 15 months: Staff
“For the past 15 months, we are not getting salaries. The monthly salary bill amounts to Rs 2.1 crore and till now Rs 48 crore is pending. Hence, the private firm has withdrawn from the operation of the water scheme,’’ Upendra, leader of the employees union, said. Due to the non-supply of protected water, people are forced to opt for borewell or packaged water for their drinking needs, which everyone cannot afford. “Though we have a borewell, we cannot depend on it in view of the high fluoride content in the groundwater. All these days, we have been getting protected water under the scheme,’’ P Leelavathi, a housewife, said.
When contacted, D Venkataramana, Superintending Engineer of the scheme, said they had urged the employees to call off their strike by promising to resolve the issue at the earliest. But there has been no response from the employees. “We have sent bills amounting to Rs14 crore to the State government. The total pending bills amounting to Rs 35-45 crore. We are awaiting the release of funds,” the SE said. If the striking employees fail to join duties, we will invite a short tender soon and hire workers to run the protected water scheme, he added.
D Venkataramana, SE of the water scheme, said they had urged the employees to call off their strike. But there has been no response from them. If they fail to join duties, we will invite a short tender soon and hire workers to run the water scheme, he added.