Sangli: In a humanitarian gesture, the Indian Railways on Monday dispatched a 'water train' for the parched Latur district, officials said here.
The 10-wagon train chugged off from Miraj in Sangli district of western Maharashtra on Monday afternoon and is likely to reach Latur city in Marathwada region around midnight after covering the 375-km journey.
The initiative was taken by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu as many parts of his home state are reeling under a severe water crisis, especially villages in Latur district that has a population of around 2.45 crore.
People of Osmanabad too have demanded a similar train to help them cope with water shortage in the district.
Following Prabhu's directives, 50 wagons, similar to the ones used to transport oil and milk, were sent to Kota in Rajasthan earlier this month for thorough cleaning and then routed to Sangli.
The wagons, each with a capacity of holding 54,000 litres, were filled with water in Sangli over the past two days, the officials said.
The Railways plans to make a few more similar need-based trips to Latur villages, the schedules of which are not yet finalised.
Meanwhile, in Latur, the water will be first transferred into a tank adjacent to the railway station, sent to a treatment plant before it is distributed to the thirsty population.
Currently, around 15,000 villages in Maharashtra, a majority of them in Latur, Beed and Osmanabad districts, are facing acute water shortage.
Police have imposed prohibitory orders till May 3 to prevent violence over water distribution, and posted armed guards at public water storage tanks and reservoirs.
Villagers in some areas trek more than two km daily to fetch a pot of water and keep their water stock under lock and key. Schools in affected areas have been shut down, with marriages and other social events cancelled or postponed and agricultural activities at a standstill.