Private tanker operators plan to go on strike from Aug. 21

The Tamil Nadu Private Water Lorry Owners Association has announced an indefinite strike from August 21, seeking the government’s interventions to allow them to operate without hassle.

For the third time in the past three months, the association has called for a strike as the issues, including licence to operate, remain unsolved. The association’s president, N. Nijalingam, said: “We have to go on strike as the police are filing cases of theft under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code and have also arrested drivers and owners across the State. We are short of drivers because a number of people are not willing to drive water trucks, fearing registration of cases.”

Recently, cases were filed against water tanker operators and drivers in Red Hills and two lorries were seized in Pallikaranai. Officials of the district administration assured the lorry owners that action would be taken to issue licences to draw groundwater and operate tankers.

But, cases continue to be filed against water tanker owners, he said. Members of the association noted that the demand has dropped by 30-40% over the past few weeks due to rains and mild weather in the city. About 4,500 lorries are operated in Chennai and each of them now do 3-4 trips daily.

Residents welfare associations in areas along Rajiv Gandhi Salai and East Coast Road, which are largely dependent on water tankers, are chalking out strategies to face the impending water crisis. Subha Srikanth, vice president, Olympia Opaline Flat Owners Association, Navalur said: “Groundwater and treated waste water from the sewage treatment plant contribute to 10% of the needs. We purchase 20 tanker loads of water daily. If suppliers go on strike, we will have to ration water and ask residents to purchase drinking water.”

Saving rainwater in the past few days has helped reduce water stress in apartments along Rajiv Gandhi Salai. Harsha Koda, coordinator, Federation of OMR Residents Associations (FOMRRA), said: “The situation may not be as grave as it was this summer. Nearly 25 apartment complexes along OMR have saved 8 lakh litres of rainwater per hour during the rain spell last week. Many have taken to direct harnessing to sumps.”

S. Murugan, secretary of the association, said lorries continue to ply for a distance of 70-80 km to source water. “Many members have already applied for licences to the district administration. We want issues to be resolved to supply water,” he said.

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