In drought-hit Latur, minister's helipad well watered

While the Indian Railways is trying to quench the thirst of parched Latur with wagonloads of water, Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse came under fire on Friday for allegedly permitting the use of thousands of litres of water to prepare a helipad for his visit to the drought-hit district.

Khadse was in Latur to take stock of the daily ''water train''  which has been supplying around 5.50 lakhs water daily for the thirsty people of the district, and later, he was scheduled to attend a function in Belkund village, around 37 km away - ironically to inaugurate a new water supply system.

Instead of making the hour-long drive in the 42 degrees Celsius heat, he decided to hop onto a helicopter for the function. Accordingly, a temporary helipad was prepared on the outskirts of the small village with a population of around 3,000.

Local television channels showed at least two water tankers were brought to wet the helipad, make the landing area firm and to ensure that dust settled was prevented from rising when the chopper landed.

Though Khadse admitted that some water may have been used to prepare a firm landing pad, he stoutly denied that water was wasted. The move, however, attracted criticism from various quarters.

The Congress' state unit general secretary Sachin Sawant attacked Khadse and asked what was the need to waste water when he could have easily travelled by road.

''Khadse should tender a public apology for this gross wastage of water when the Indian Railways are making so much effort to supply water to Latur. Instead, he could have easily travelled by road and taken 15-20 minutes extra,'' he said.

He added that this incident proves that the current BJP-led government is still flying high in the air with little knowledge of the ground realities of the people, and the same people will bring it down to earth.