Surajya Abhiyan calls upon Indian Railways to restart non functioning water vending machines (WVMs) in public interest

Concerns raised over accessibility to affordable drinking water for rail passengers

In a recent development, the installation of water vending machines (WVMs) or Water ATMs at various railway stations across India, intended to provide cheap and quality drinking water to passengers, has come under scrutiny due to the continuing non-functioning status of many of these machines which were shut down during the Covid-19 period.

Initiated under the guidance of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Ministry of Railways launched the Water ATM project to ensure the availability of potable water at affordable rates for travelers. However, reports indicate that a significant number of these WVMs now display ‘Out of Order’ notices, leaving passengers with limited options for accessing cheap and clean drinking water.

While authorities had initially pledged to replace non-functional WVMs, a recent statement by Railway Board Chairman and CEO VK Tripathi announced the decision not to restart water vending machines at railway stations that have remained closed since the Covid-induced lockdown. This decision has been met with criticism, with passengers expressing concerns over the accessibility and affordability of drinking water, especially during long journeys. While the WVMs dispensed water at Rs 5 a liter, packaged drinking water costs no less than Rs 15 a liter. The WVMs also were environment friendly as the passengers could easily refill their existing water bottles. Packaged drinking water will only add to the already burgeoning plastic waste problem.

Railway officials have labeled the WVM project as a ‘failed scheme’, indicating that it will not be reinstated for public use. This development raises apprehensions among passengers, particularly those who cannot afford expensive bottled water available at railway stations.

Concerns have also been raised regarding the potential shortage of RailNeer, the bottled water provided by Indian Railways, and the maintenance schedule of manufacturing plants, which could exacerbate the problem during the scorching summer months.

Passengers have voiced their discontent through various media platforms, questioning the decision to shut down the WVM project and alleging that it benefits canteens and food stalls over passenger welfare. Advocacy groups, including ‘Surajya Abhiyan’, an initiative by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, have appealed to the Ministry of Railways to reconsider its decision and take immediate steps to ensure the smooth functioning of WVMs for the benefit of travelers. The Samiti has also appealed to the netizens to raise this concern on social media.

The issue underscores the importance of providing accessible and affordable drinking water for rail passengers, particularly those from the economically challenged classes.

Western Railway’s Mumbai division to install Water vending machines at 25 railway stations

12th July 2023

Western Railway’s Mumbai Division plans to install Water Vending Machinesacross various railway stations with an aim to provide clean and hygienic drinking water to the passengers. It will be helpful to the passengers because the rates are much cheaper as compared to the packaged water bottles. 53 such Water Vending Machines (WVMs) will be installed across 25 railway stations.

According to a press release issued by Shri Sumit Thakur – Chief Public Relations Officer of Western Railway, the Water Vending Machines uses Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water Purification technology which helps in removing bacteria from the water. These machines will enable passengers to purchase potable drinking water at reasonable rates. Passengers will also have an option of refilling the water or buying them with container. The facility will be available at stations round the clock. Read More

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