Impure Bottled Water in Andhra Pradesh


Topic: Impure Bottled Water in Andhra Pradesh

Author: Barry Pittard


Sent to:, Sunday, February 23, 2003.


Acknowledgements to:, which drew attention to and posted the Southern News article.

Dear Editor,

I note your report on the vast and health-threatening extent of impure bottled water in Andhra Pradesh, Southern News, February 13, 2003. 

I am one of many thousands of foreigners who have visited your State - in particular, the Sathya Sai Baba ashram at Puttaparthi. To speak only of cases with which I am most familiar, I have seen many foreigners get horribly sick. Sometimes they die. A common diagnosis is food poisoning.   However, a United Nations south Asian water expert once told me, "What often gets overlooked is the condition of the water that is consumed by foreign travellers."   

Without doubt, what we drink and eat in the course of our travels is consumed on our own responsibility. Indeed, one's wisdom and caution do not always take the upper hand, as I have known to my cost. The problem is much compounded when governments are not able to root out corruption in the food and drink sector. 

It must also be said that the Puttaparthi ashram authorities insist on the importance of visitors eating and drinking only within the ashram. However, it is a counsel extremely widely ignored. Again, in one aspect, the responsibility rests very much with the foreign (or any) traveller. But in seeking solutions we are forced to deal with realities, and not think human beings will act perfectly. 

Another problem is that people who prepare their own food within the ashram go out into the village to buy it, a problem to some extent ameliorated by stores within the ashram, although the long queues outside the shops at this ashram, India's largest, can be daunting indeed.  Moreover, what expertise would the ashram shop holders, or the lay public at large, have?  Not in the least can they test the quality of the bottled water or the packaged foodstuffs. 

At the same time, in the interests of ever improving relations between our countries, I would request the authorities to consider, as well as the health and well-being of their own citizens, those of foreigners, and the aspect of foreign relations. 

With governmental imagination and will, it may be possible to find ways to combat the problem where someone new to Andhra Pradesh may feel, and even indeed conceal, confusion as to which brands of food and drink to trust - if any.   

Perhaps a very stringent system of testing and labelling of containers may go some way towards alleviating the problem, and the revoking of licences and stiff penalties for those vendors, including confrontation by them with the harm that they inflict, who so dangerously imperil the health of millions. 

Barry Pittard, Australia 


Southern News Archives, February 13, 2003

State govt to check sale of contaminated bottled water

HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh government is finally moving to check the sale of contaminated bottled drinking water which has become a major source of health concern.

The decision comes in the wake of some shocking findings. More than half of the samples of mineral water and packaged drinking water collected by the Food Inspectors of the State Health Department during 2000-2002 were found to be contaminated.

Of them, the department has initiated prosecution against 328 vendors and manufacturers. Against 595 samples sent for analysis, as many as 366 were found adulterated.

According to Health Minister K Sivaprasada Rao, 126 samples were drawn in 2002 and it was found that 59 were adulterated or of substandard quality (45.38 per cent). In 2001, 123 samples out of 192 were noticed to be adulterated.

This website's newspaper has already reported the findings of a city-based laboratory which revealed that microbiological contamination has become common in bottled drinking water.

Speaking to newsmen in Hyderabad on Wednesday after a meeting of the state food advisory committee, Sivaprasada Rao admitted that the number of samples lifted was rather less and said that henceforth the department would crack the whip against vendors or manufacturers who indulged in selling impure or microbes-filled water in the garb of mineral water.

"It is outrageous. They (manufacturers) are filling the bottles with water from borewells and selling them as mineral water. Mineral water should not only be pure but it should contain minerals," Sivaprasada Rao said adding that a bottle of unclean water was being marketed at a price higher than a litre of milk.

He said that the Union Government had issued two notifications on Sept 29 last year that mineral water should be manufactured under the Bureau of Indian Standards of Certification and should conform to specific conditions laid down by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. The State government had to see that they were implemented.

But 123 manufacturers in the state went to the High Court challenging the Union Government's notifications. The Health Department filed counter affidavits pleading for their dismissal, Rao said.

Barry Pittard on water problems in Andhra Pradesh


Author: Barry Pittard


Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Dear All,

Re Andhra Pradesh water shortage report, Southern News, Andhra Pradesh, February 7, 2003. See article on

Would those interested please email and brief me on anything that you recollect about the water situation at Puttaparthi? Certainly, some former devotees are engineers, chemists, bioscientists etc., in various specialties, and therefore may be likely to notice more than a lay person. At the same time, observant non-professionals in such areas may also have noticed matters pertaining to the provision of water at Puttaparthi.

I am wondering

- if Puttaparthi is totally well-dependent

- whether the ashram authorities have been at all open with the Sai Organisation worldwide - so that the mere rank-and-file may be able to make informed choices - about any potential dangers of a water shortage at the ashram

- what might be the hazard to the lives of a great many residents and visitors to the Puttaparthi ashram if there were to be a serious water problem there?

- What might be the tragic hazard too if any persons of evil intent should devise a plan to damage the integrity of the Prashanthi Nilayam water supply?

(In fact, there have many Indian State police and Indian Home Office reports of terrorist bombing campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, and other South Indian states. Leading experts on terrorism have linked some of these with Pakistan sponsorsed funding, planning and training. Many of the targets have been Christian churches. Not least with the Bali bombings in view, who will dare say that several thousand foreigners at Puttaparthi do not represent a potential soft target of high magnitude? Especially at the virtually co-inciding time of Jewish Festival of Lights and Christmas celebrations there, when the security is far less than during Hindu festivals, when very many Eminent Persons visit).

My queries, apart from the issue of any human lives that might be at stake at Puttaparthi, is about the highly authoritiarian secrecy that many of us have noted to be endemic in all sorts of areas related to Sai Baba and Puttaparthi. If we can expose the all-too-possible, chilling consequences of this secrecy, in any or all of its expressions, we may get a lot further in our attempts at getting our various governments to take more seriously the dangers (again, of various sorts) that their nationals may run in visiting Sai Baba.

Therefore, I ask anyone with even the slightest observations of the Puttaparthi water situation to let me know whatever you can come up with. The information can then be collated, analysed by expert consultants in the area, and then perhaps developed into a hard-hatted perspective, which can be publicly shared - indeed as an antidote to the shocking secrecy which pervades Puttaparthi. Please make any equiries or observations you can, and kindly inform me of in any way you can.

Many threads can make a whole garment.

Barry Pittard Email: