L-G cannot escape responsibility for Delhi’s thirst

Such acute would be the water crisis that it often created a situation of lawlessness needing police intervention.
New Delhi: People wait to collect drinking water from a tanker of Delhi Jal Board on a hot summer day
New Delhi: People wait to collect drinking water from a tanker of Delhi Jal Board on a hot summer dayExpress

Delhi’s water story could well find an echo in English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s work ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The famous lines being, “Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” Like the Rime, Delhi’s water story runs from amusement to impatience to fear to fascination.

Delhi is a helpless city. Its helplessness is best exemplified in the way the city has been going thirsty with taps going dry. In the 1990s, when the city had started to expand with unauthorised colonies coming up in a big way, water scarcity during the summer months would make news in a big way.

Such acute would be the water crisis that it often created a situation of lawlessness needing police intervention. Given the unique nature of public unrest, the Delhi Police in its crime records book opened a new column – water riots.

More than three decades down the line, Delhi is back to the similar situation of water riots. Things did improve for a decade around the turn of the century with Sonia Vihar Water Plant being made operational in North East Delhi. Similarly initiative was taken to replace the old rusting pipelines and finally a fleet of stainless steel water tankers of Delhi Jal Board was launched to counter the water mafias.

But this all stopped happening almost a decade ago. On becoming the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, for the first time in 2013 and then in 2015, had received a fully functioning government machinery. In the past 11 years, the Aam Aadmi Party government has brought this government machinery to a complete standstill.

If there are floods in the city, as it happened last year, Haryana is to be blamed, Delhi’s chief secretary has to be blamed and Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor too has to be blamed. Now that the city is parched, the same narrative is on again, Haryana is to be blamed, Delhi’s chief secretary has to be blamed and Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor too has to be blamed.

While we know what the Aam Aadmi Party government is capable of, and their half of the cabinet either in jail or ousted, they were least expected to deliver water in a parched city. Here the Lieutenant Governor and Delhi’s bureaucracy, which is closely controlled by the Raj Niwas through the Chief Secretary, have failed the city residents.

The water crisis in Delhi is manmade, thanks to large scale water theft. There are allegation that the ‘huge leakage’ of 58 percentfrom Delhi Jal Board’s pipelines have been used to divert water to the tankers operated by the water mafias. A statement issued by the Delhi Congress has claimed there is 16.28 per cent surge in the leakage of water over a span of three years despite the fact that the Delhi Jal Board had made substantial spend from its budgetary allocation for the replacement and installation of supply lines.

There also is an annual allocation of approximately Rs 30 crore for metering and plucking the water leakage, so what explains the perplexing escalation of water leakage? The protection to the water mafia in the city by both the DJB officials, which is under the Delhi government, and the Delhi Police, which is directly under the Lieutenant Governor.

When the Supreme Court rapped them on the knuckles, the Raj Niwas came out with a statement that they could not control the water mafia as the Delhi government did not lodge any complaint with the Delhi Police. The figures weekly allowances paid to the Delhi Police cops by the mafia tankers is part of the city’s folklore.

Imagine with close to 8000 strong traffic police cops patrolling the roads, Delhi Police still needs an FIR to identify and act against the water mafia’s tankers criss crossing the city. Doesn’t the Delhi Police work on the ‘open information’ that the water mafia was running amok in the city.

If the city has been held to ransom by the water Mafiosi, the Raj Niwas, Lieutenant Governor’s secretariat is as much to be held responsible. The justification of their inaction on not being informed about the water mafia can at best be described as a lame excuse by someone who completely failed to act timely in the line of duty.

Sidharth Mishra

Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com