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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Delhi L-G pens open letter to CM Kejriwal, slams govt over water scarcity issues

Atishi hit back at Saxena over the open letter, holding him responsible for the stoppage of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) works

PTI New Delhi Published 16.04.24, 08:12 PM
Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena.

Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena. File picture.

Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena has written an open letter to jailed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, claiming the death of a woman in a fight over fetching water reflects the government's failure and Water Minister Atishi used the incident for "narrow political goals".

Atishi hit back at Saxena over the open letter, holding him responsible for the stoppage of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) works.

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The Delhi water minister had a few days ago written to the L-G, asking him to suspend the CEO of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) after a woman was killed following a quarrel with her neighbour over fetching water from a common tap in the Farsh Bazar area of northeast Delhi.

In the note, Atishi urged Saxena to "institute an independent enquiry into the acts of omission and commission of the chief secretary, as well as officers of the finance department, urban development department and DJB".

Days after the communication, Saxena penned a strongly worded open letter to Kejriwal, currently lodged in Tihar jail after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case linked to the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy scam case.

"I was deeply distressed at the insensitive communication from the Minister for Water... Atishi on Sunday. While I was yet to receive the letter, it characteristically found its way on various social and mainstream media platforms, the moment it was signed. She has chosen to use the unfortunate death of a woman in East Delhi for narrow and partisan political goals," he charged.

Having underlined the inadequate supply of water as the cause behind the incident, Atishi has ironically indicted her own government of more than nine years, the L-G said.

"Her note indeed is a prima facie admission of guilt, inaction and inefficiency over the past almost 10 years," he said in the letter.

Asserting that this "unfortunate incident (woman's death) is not the only such case of its kind in the context of Delhi", he said many such incidents over water scarcity have happened in the past primarily due to the failure of the government.

"Such instances have become a recurrent phenomenon year after year and have been widely reported in media over the last 10 years. I am enclosing a snapshot of some news clippings, starting 2017 for illustration. Water woes in the capital, especially in settlements where the poor live, have exacerbated over the last decade.

"Your minister’s hasty missive to me is an admission of these failures and defaults of performance of your government and amount to facile attempts at shrugging responsibility off, a complex problem," he added.

Saxena cited official figures to highlight his points. He cited The Economic Survey 2023-24, tabled in the recent Budget Session of the Delhi Assembly.

"Over the last decade, water treatment capacity grew marginally from 906 MGD to 946 MGD, barely a 4.4 per cent increase. During the same period, the population of the city has grown significantly by 15 per cent.

"The overall shortfall in water supply amounts to about 290 MGD. Of the total water being supplied, 120 MGD comes from groundwater extraction, which is also a gross exaggeration. I am sure that you are aware that of the 16 Ranney wells, five are non-functional. Similarly, a large number of tubewells are also dysfunctional," he added.

The percentage of "unaccounted for water" -- a sum of water leakages by way of transmission and distribution losses, water theft and non-payment of dues -- saw a sharp increase from 45 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2022-2023, the L-G said.

"By implication, in 2015, of the 906 MGD of water treated, only 498 MGD was accounted for. In 2022-23, of the 946 MGD treated, barely 397 MGD is accounted for. Accordingly, over the last decade, net water availability has decreased by more than 100 MGD due to the criminal neglect by your Government," Saxena added.

He said that of the about 2.5 crore people in the city, more than two crore are deprived of drinking water supply in varying degrees, especially in unauthorized colonies, slum clusters and to a lesser extent, even in organized developed colonies.

"It simply points to the fact that there has been no effort whatsoever during the last ten years for plugging the leaks and we seem to be spending thousands of crores in pumping water into a leaking bucket," the L-G said.

Hitting back at Saxena, Atishi held him responsible for stopping DJB's works The L-G encouraged the officers who obstructed work and did not take any action against them despite repeated requests, the Delhi water minister alleged.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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