Update: 21:00 IST — Promising continued support to run water trains to the drought-hit Latur district, the Indian Railways on Friday also withdrew the Rs. 4 crore estimate that it had sent to the district administration, reported the Indian Express. The water trains will support the needs of the people of the dry Marathwada region till the crisis ends, promised the Ministry.
In a statement, the Railways said that the need of the hour is catering to the people and not settlement of expenditure. Water trains, dubbed the Jaldoot, have so far transported more than six crore litres of water to the region.
Original Story — Indian railways on Thursday sent a bill of Rs. 4 crore to Latur District Collector towards transportation cost of water. In the last one month, the railways has provided about six crore litres of water to Latur (Maharashtra).
Pandurang Pole, Latur's district collector, said he had received the bill about 10 days ago and will be forwarding it to the water department. "The bill of Rs. 2.16 crore is for initial fortnight. So we assume that the total bill till date will be around Rs. 4 crore," Pole was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
"We have sent the bill to the Latur District Collector as per the administration's request," Press Trust of India quoted SK Sood, Central Railways general manager as saying. The first water train reportedly left from Miraj (in western Maharashtra) on April 11 and arrived in Latur on April 12.
Indian Railways' decision of sending the bill received criticism from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government as well as from opposition party Congress.
"Utterly wrong move by the railways to seek money from drought-hit Latur when it needs help from all quarters," Sunil Gaikwad, BJP's Latur MP told the Indian Express. On the other hand, a Maharashtra Congress spokesperson said the bill reflects the Modi government's "insensitivity" towards the people of Latur. He said "the government is making a business of it."
On the other hand, the Latur district collector told DNA that the bill came as a surprise since the Maharashtra State Administration had requested for a waiver during the planning stages.
The city of Latur has a population of over four lakh. In addition, with 943 villages in the Latur district, the combined population rises over 18 lakh.
[1 lakh = 100,000 | 1 crore = 10 million | 100 crore = 1 billion]