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Delhi Water crisis: SC questions AAP govt on tanker mafia, Atishi claims collusion by officials; BJP alleges AAP link

People in Delhi are suffering due to water scarcity, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday as it pulled up the AAP government over water wastage and tanker mafia and sought to know what steps it has taken to ease the recurring problem

PTI New Delhi Published 12.06.24, 09:46 PM
People collect drinking water from a tanker as the national capital faces a water crisis, at New Ashok Nagar area in New Delhi.

People collect drinking water from a tanker as the national capital faces a water crisis, at New Ashok Nagar area in New Delhi. PTI picture.

As the Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the AAP government over the role of tanker mafia in the water shortage-hit national capital, the blame game over the issue intensified with Delhi minister Atishi alleging that senior officials colluded with the mafia to reduce the number of DJB tankers and demanding an inquiry into it.

After the Supreme Court's observations, the Lieutenant Governor Secretariat wrote to the Delhi Police Commissioner, asking him to take action against the tanker mafia indulging in the theft of water from the Munak canal that carries water from Haryana.

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Seeking a compliance report within a week, the LG's communication to the police commissioner directed him to ensure strict vigil along the canal to prevent any theft of water by tanker mafia and other illegal activities.

People in Delhi are suffering due to water scarcity, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday as it pulled up the AAP government over water wastage and tanker mafia and sought to know what steps it has taken to ease the recurring problem.

The court told the Delhi government it will ask the city police to take action against the tanker mafia if it can't deal with them. If the same water can be transported using tankers, why can't it be supplied through the pipeline, a disquieted court said.

"There are visuals on every channel that the tanker mafia is working in Delhi. What measures have you taken in this regard?... What measures have you taken to control water waste coming through the two barrages if this is a recurring problem? Please show us what action or FIR have you lodged against tanker mafias," the bench observed orally.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by the Delhi government seeking a direction to Haryana to release the surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh to the national capital to mitigate its water woes.

Delhi water minister Atishi, however, accused government officials of reducing the number of Delhi Jal Board water tankers without her knowledge, claiming it led to the proliferation of tanker mafia.

In a letter to Lt Governor VK Saxena, Atishi demanded an inquiry into the alleged collusion of senior officers with the tanker mafia and requested him to deploy an ACP-level police officer to patrol the stretch of Munak Canal in Delhi to ensure that no illegal water-filling activity takes place there.

"There is a need for an enquiry into the potential collusion by senior officers in the Delhi government with the tanker mafia because it seems that there has been a deliberate and substantial reduction of the tankers deployed by the Delhi Jal Board in the last one year," she claimed.

Atishi said that in January last year, 1,179 tankers were deployed by the Delhi Jal Board and this number was 1,203 in June the same year.

"However, this number was reduced to 888 in January 2024 without any approval from me. In fact, without any consultation with me. I repeatedly kept flagging the issue of grievances regarding water tanker shortage and asking the CEO DJB to increase the number of tankers, but he did not do so," she alleged.

Delhi BJP attacked the AAP government, with its president Virendra Sachdeva along with other party leaders submitting a complaint to the police commissioner for registration of an FIR and a probe into the water theft by the tanker mafia and possible connivance of officials in it.

Sachdeva also alleged collusion of AAP MLAs with tanker mafia.

He alleged water tanker racket was being run by AAP leaders and people close to them. Still, they were "misleading" the people who were facing problems and struggling for water, he said.

With the impact of the prevailing heat wave aggravated further by the water supply crisis, Atishi directed the quick response teams comprising additional district magistrates and sub-divisional magistrates to inspect major pipelines to prevent any leakages there.

The minister said that she directed the chief secretary on March 14, April 3 and April 12 to increase the number of water tankers as in previous years, but he did not do so.

"This reduction of water tankers deployed by the DJB is what has led to the possible proliferation of private tanker mafia, who are illegally selling water.

"If the senior officers of the Delhi government have not increased the number of water tankers deployed in the DJB despite the instructions of the minister in-charge, there is a serious concern regarding their collusion with the tanker mafia," she alleged.

The Raj Niwas officials, however, said the DJB that comes under the AAP government never cared to file a complaint with Delhi Police about the tanker mafia.

"The Delhi Jal Board under the AAP never thought it proper to even complaint to the police about the same, leave apart filing an FIR, that would have automatically ensured police action," said a Raj Niwas official.

"They even never came to the LG asking for action to be taken," the official added.

Atishi lamented that the number of water tankers deployed by the DJB is lesser now than in June 2023 and alleged "collusion between the senior officers of the Delhi government and the tanker mafia".

"Therefore, an enquiry committee should be set up to look into the collusion of the chief secretary and CEO DJB with the tanker mafia. Pending enquiry both officers may be suspended so as to not influence the proceedings," she added.

The Water minister has sought a daily report of the quick response teams regarding any water pipeline leakages.

People across the city faced a shortage with supply dwindling to a few minutes or stopping completely.

"Residents even get into fights and many times people come from far away and don't get water even after requesting others. A water tanker comes only once a day," said a Gita Colony resident Shakuntala Devi.

The Haryana Government, meanwhile, rejected the Delhi government's charge that the state was not releasing enough water to the national capital "Haryana is diligently fulfilling its commitment to provide water to Delhi. Haryana not only meets but exceeds its obligations in this regard" said Minister of State for Irrigation and Water Resources Abhe Singh Yadav.

His response came as the Delhi High Court asked the governments of Delhi and Haryana to respond to a plea seeking contempt action against Haryana officials for allegedly not supplying adequate water to the national capital.

A vacation bench of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna issued notices and asked the governments of Delhi and Haryana and senior officers of the Department of Irrigation and Water Resources of Haryana to file their replies within three weeks.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on July 24.

Delhi Congress chief Devender Yadav appealed to the BJP-ruled Haryana government and the AAP dispensation in Delhi "not to play politics" on the water crisis, as the people of Delhi were suffering due to water shortage.

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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