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Water ATMs in Guwahati city heading for uncertain future

The water ATMs in the metropolitan city seem to be heading for an uncertain future with the GSCL (Guwahati Smart City Ltd) getting embroiled in a legal quagmire with Swajal

Water ATMs in Guwahati city heading for uncertain future

Sentinel Digital Desk

STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI: The water ATMs in the metropolitan city seem to be heading for an uncertain future with the GSCL (Guwahati Smart City Ltd) getting embroiled in a legal quagmire with Swajal — the company that was running the water ATMs here till its deal with the GSCL was terminated.

Launched in September 2018, a total of 20 water ATMs were installed in the city by the GSCL.

The GSCL clinched a deal with Swajal for installation, operation and maintenance of these water ATMs for five years.

GSCL sources, however, informed that after one year of operation, complaints kept pouring in from consumers for, what they said, poor service and irregularity in operation, besides malfunctioning of the water ATMs. "And that led the GSCL to reduce the period of maintenance of water ATMs by Swajal to one year from five years earlier. Swajal has been paid over Rs 2 crore for the installation and maintenance of the water ATMS.

"However, during the Corona-induced lockdown, almost all the water ATMs in the city were closed due to non-repairing and non-clearance of power bills. The APDCL (Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd) disrupted power connections to the water ATMs, much to the disappointment of the consumers.

"This led the GSCL to terminate its deal with Swajal. In June this year, it decided to operate the water ATMs on its own in a revenue-sharing mode. The GSCL renovated the water ATMs and floated tenders inviting interested parties to run the ATMs in the revenue-sharing mode. The terms and conditions under this system is such that the contractor company will have to ensure 24X7 supply of water in BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards), run and maintain the water ATM kiosks for three years, and also ensure their safety and security. The revenue to be earned in the process will be shared between the contractor company and the GSCL.

The GSCL was optimistic of earning around Rs 7 lakh from the water ATMs yearly. It was also planning to bring in changes in the ATM sites allowing the contracting company to change the ATM sites to ensure revenue flow.

"When everything was going on in a smooth way, Swajal has poured cold water into the plan. Swajal managed to get the termination of its five-year deal with GSCL stayed by a lower Court, and then moved the Gauhati High Court seeking arbitration on its five-year deal with the GSCL.

"At present, we are running the water ATMs on our own. The price line is Re 1 for 250 ml, Rs 5 for 1 litre, Rs 10 for 5 litres. However, we haven't appointed anyone to look after the ATMs," said the GSCL source.

The 20 water ATMs in the city are at GMCH (Gauhati Medical College and Hospital), MMCH (Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital), BBCI (Dr. B Barooah Cancer Institute), Food Villa at Panbazar, Dispur Circle Office, Regional Science Centre at Khanapara, Gorchuk Vegetable Market, Nehru Stadium, State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden, Boothnath, Nabagraha Temple, Judges' Field, Sonaram Higher Secondary School, Gandhi Mandap, Nak-kata Pukhuri, Dharapur Bazar, Chandmari GMC Market, MachkhowaParghat and Jail Road in Fancy Bazar.

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