Tirupati: Consequent to the blanket ban imposed by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) on the usage of plastic atop the holy Hindu hill town of Tirum-ala, traders, involved in the supply of drinking water packed in 20-litre bubble-topped cans, are having a field day, jacking up the prices and allegedly fleecing pilgrims looking for drinking water.
The TTD had earlier made an announcement that all use of plastic wo-uld be completely banned at Tirumala from January 1, 2020. As part of the ban, the temple authorities ba-nned packaged drinking water in plastic bottles, because of which pilgrims are facing tough times as the price of packaged drinking water has soared over the past few days.
Following the ban, several brands involved in supply of packaged mineral water bottles have impos-ed a self-restriction and stopped the supply, which impacted packaged drinking water supply.
Taking advantage of the situation, water suppliers have started charging shopkeepers `80 per 20 litres of water, which previously used to cost between `10 and `20 each.
As a result, shopkeepers at Tirumala are forced to sell a 250 ml glass of water at `5 to pilgrims. Though the TTD has been operating a number of Jala Prasadam units (RO purified water kiosks) at different points across Tirumala, supplying drinking water for free, the devotees who are used to drink mineral water during travelling have been finding it hard ever since the ban on packaged drinking water was announced.
Srikanth Sirisiri, a devotee from Thandur, Vikarabad district, Telangana, told this newspaper that he spent nearly `300 to quench the thirst of his family of four members in a single day.
“We know that the TTD has set Jala Prasadam kiosks to supply free drinking water. But, we used to drink mineral water, especially while traveling. Since we cannot carry water bottles with us, we are going to places with mineral water cans. Traders are overcharging us by selling water at exorbitant prices,” Mr Sirisiri said.
Deccan Chronicle independently found out that traders and suppliers are making windfall profits in this situation. A cup of water of 250 ml, tapped from water cans is being sold at Rs 5, eventually leading to a gain Rs 400 — selling around 80 cups per can of each 20,000 ml of water.
Speaking to this newspaper, P. Naveen Kumar Reddy, convener, Rayalaseema Porata Samiti, opined that the TTD should have provided more alternatives other than Jala Prasadams to provide water to devotees.
“We welcome the decision taken by the TTD to impose a complete ban on usage of plastic bottles at Tirumala. But, the Devasthanam should have created viable alternatives before the ban,” he said.