There is no clarity on whether the free water scheme announced by the previous Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government will continue in the new financial year. The reason: The interim budget does not have any provision for the subsidy.
If the scheme is discontinued, it will mean double whammy for Delhiites as they will need to pay higher bills for both water and power. Under the scheme, people with metered connections are entitled to free water of up to 20,000 litres per month.
Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials said there was no clarity as yet. “The next board meeting will take a call on continuing the scheme in the absence of government subsidy,” said a senior official.
The interim budget does not have provisions for additional finances for 2014-15, said a senior finance department official. As per DJB, the yearly financial burden for the free scheme will be at least `165 crore per month.
The absence of a similar provision has already forced the power department to discontinue the subsidy on electricity bills announced by AAP government.
A senior government official earlier associated with the DJB asked: “Why should there be any confusion? If there is a board decision, the government is bound to honour it. Either the DJB or the government will need to provide funds for it.”
Officials of the water utility claimed the DJB had put forward their demands to the government. “Our first proposal had included the compensation. But the Centre asked us to do away with it so the final submission did not have the provision,” the finance department official said.
The DJB will hold its board meeting on February 28. But the matter is not on agenda as yet, sources said. “If the L-G conveys inability to compensate us, the board will have to take a call on it,” the DJB official said.
An AAP spokesperson said, “Why the provision was not made in the interim budget is something the Congress-led UPA government has to answer. We were given to understand that even the L-G had favoured continuation of the scheme.”