It has been a mid-monsoon water crisis for nearly 3,000 residents of Kansal village for the past two days.
A tubewell that supplies nearly .1-million-gallon-daily (MGD) water to 600 houses in the village has been inoperable since Tuesday - courtesy an ongoing blame game between Nayagaon municipal council and SAS Nagar public health department.
The two government bodies have been at loggerheads over the payment of an outstanding electricity bill of Rs 45 lakh to the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPL), because of which power supply to the tubewell has now been discontinued. The power bill has not been paid since 2006.
The municipal council's defence has been that since it is not paid the water bill by the residents, it won't pay for the power expenses of the tubewell.
On the other hand, SAS Nagar district public health department sub-divisional engineer Sahil Sharma said the tubewell has been under Nayagaon municipal council since 2006. But he admitted that water bills were paid to the public health department. "However, the money is used for the maintenance of supply," he said. "Electricity bills have always been paid by the MC only."
Sharma claimed that the MC already owed nearly Rs 1 crore to the PSPCL for not paying the bills of other tubewells. Contacted, Nayagaon municipal council executive officer Sarabjeet Singh shifted the blame to the public health department. "Why should we pay the bill?" he said."There are 16 tubewells in the area and we maintain eight of them. That is where our responsibility ends."
However, Sharma said that when the municipal council was formed in 2006, it had requested the public health department to maintain some of the water supply infrastructure as it was short of staff."Then, it was also decided that the municipal council will foot the power bill," he said.
RESIDENTS AT THE RECEIVING END
While the two government bodies have passed the buck on to each other, residents are the ones who have been suffering the most. "Why are we suffering for no fault of ours," Gurpreet Singh Malhotra, a Kansal resident, said.
Gurpreet's family is one of the many families in Kansal village that have been parched for two days. "We pay our water bills in advance and have already made the payment. Why should we be put to inconvenience?" he said.
He claimed that the problem had affected nearly 80% houses in Kansal. "There is only one pump that is functioning (near gurdwara) here, but that supplies water to only a few residents."