KOCHI: If brain drain in the professional class has been plaguing Kerala, then it is apparently nowhere as glaring as in the Kerala Water Authority (KWA). In spite of operating in a state bordered and crisscrossed by water bodies, the KWA has just one worker, that too taken on contract, for repairing the underwater pipes across the state.
“We have been trying hard to get more personnel. But the problem is that there are hardly any professionals in the state in the field. In the case of a few who were approached by the KWA for the job, they demanded such exorbitant rates that we could replace the whole pipe with that amount,” said Ashok Kumar Singh, Managing Director of KWA.
Being the only contractor in the state assigned to do the job, Purushan K K is on the call day in and day out. “Invariably there is always two to three months of job pending. But if there is an emergency I do my best to at least fix things temporarily. On an average I get about five contracts every month. The numbers usually go up during monsoon. Each assignment takes about a week according to the nature and size of the leakage,” said Purushan.
Though enthusiastic about his job, often it becomes impractical for Purushan, in his 60s, to manage the repair works occurring everywhere from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram. In Mulavukad Island of Ernakulam for instance, the leakage of water pipe has been on for a month. It is the only water source available for the 30,000 strong population of the panchayat. The increasing number of construction work being carried out on the bridges in the state has increased the workload of Purushan. Every time construction work is carried out on a bridge, the water pipes there will have to be removed and replaced. So each stretch will need two visits by Purushan. The increasing number of vessels plying through the inland waters has also resulted in increased damage to the water pipes.
Many feel that substitution with other staff lacking in experience will not serve the purpose. “Repairing underwater pipes is a job which needs expertise. First, the person has to go underground and detect the leakage in the pipe by inserting air pressure. Then he will have to find the exact dimensions of the pipe to be replaced. A mistake in any of these steps can make the whole process useless,” said a senior KWA official in Ernakulam.