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Water woes for girls at Telangana State Home and authorities only have temporary solutions

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Civic Issues
The State Home houses several hundred girls, and comes under the Department of Women Development and Child Welfare.
Image: Nitin B
Sixteen-year-old Lakshmi* takes a big gulp of water from an earthen pot placed in the hot sun, and wipes the sweat off her brow, before she speaks.
“It has been a problem for close to a week now. It was exam time, and it was summer. The timing couldn’t have been worse,” she says.
A day earlier, the State Home in Hyderabad’s Yousufguda area was packed with media crew. Even as the two Telugu states celebrated the beginning of a new year on Ugadi, residents here were parched.
“Many of us didn’t even take bath for one or two days as the water had depleted. We didn’t even have water to drink for three days,” Lakshmi adds.
According to an official statement, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) disconnected State Home’s water connection, after unpaid dues worth Rs 23 lakh.
“Every time the water tanker comes, we all have to come rushing down with buckets, fill up the water and then go back up again. Even that water was not enough the other day, as a few people were left out and we had to distribute and share the water amongst ourselves,” one girl says.
“One of my friends filled water bottles from her college and brought it, so that we don’t have to rely on the tanker,” another one chips in.
As the media vans rolled into the premises, higher authorities were noted and immediately addressed the media, stating that there was a problem, but it was being solved.
“We have ensured continuous tanker supply to see that no one is facing any trouble. The connection has not been cut. We are getting supply every alternate day. The children have enough drinking water and water to use. The outstanding bill is for the tankers from 2015, and not for the water supply itself. We will clear that soon,” the local in-charge told the media.
While the students spoke freely to the media on Wednesday morning, the mood was much more subdued on Thursday.
A few girls said that they were asked not to speak about it so publicly, and to approach the local authority in case of a problem.
The gate was also shut to the media on Wednesday night.
“We also didn’t want to complain publicly, but they were not listening to our problems. When we complained, they asked us to ‘adjust’. How can we? We are suffering a lot,” one girl said.
A watchman at the State Home said that the problem started after a water pump on the premises went defunct around a week ago, and authorities sent it for repair.
“For two days it was okay, but third day the water stopped. The pump is still not back,” he said.
The State Home, which houses several hundred girls, comes under the Department of Women Development and Child Welfare.
It also houses Hyderabad’s famous conjoined twins Veena and Vani.
On Wednesday, even the twins were seen struggling, as they were dependent on others for their daily activities, and could not participate in the rush to fill water from the tanker.
This is not the first time that the State Home has witnessed controversy.
In June 2015, eleven girls housed at the State Home removed the grills of a kitchen window on the first floor, before escaping from the premises in the early hours of the morning.
Nine of them were reported to be minors.
As the incident came to light, Telangana Woman and Child Welfare Minister Tummala Nageswara Rao, visited the premises and expressed his concern about the facilities that were being provided to the girls.
While the girls were found and brought back to the Home, three of them tried to kill themselves by consuming a detergent liquid.
For now, the girls say that more water tankers have been called, but fear that the situation might revert to the old state of affairs, once the media leaves.
“Today, six tankers came in and all our water needs were met. But, I think in a week or so, if the problem is not addressed, then we might have to restart the pushing and shoving for drinking water. I don’t think the authorities will allow the media inside next time,” one girl says.
Speaking to The News Minute, an official from the WCD said, “The problem is that we’re a little short on funds as we are at the end of the financial quarter. We have made temporary arrangement to provide water for the girls. We have alerted higher authorities. As soon as we get the funds, we will look into all their problems and solve it.”
However, she could not specify how long the temporary measures would continue.
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