The Delhi Jal Board, the Capital’s water authority, has only 27 staffers for sending out to collect water samples for quality checks in a city of over 1.67 crore people.
This effectively means there is just one person catering to a population of approximately 6 lakh or a single staff member taking care of 1.50 lakh households. And this number does not include public buildings such as hospitals, schools and malls.The monsoon, a season of water-borne diseases, is close at hand and the death of two people because of allegedly contaminated water at NCERT Colony in south Delhi is fresh in public memory.
As against the total sanctioned posts of 180 for all its laboratories — one central and five zonal labs, seven at water treatment plants and 19 at sewage treatment plants — there are as many as 66 vacant posts. Of the remaining, the posts of director (treatment and quality control), chief water analyst (CWA) and ACWAs are of supervisory or managerial category.
“That means that only 81 employees are involved in collecting samples from various spots. Again, of these, 54 are stationed at sewage treatment plants, leaving just 27 for actual fieldwork,” said a source.
But the staffing problem is not new.
In 2008, after the Water and Sewage Laboratory Staff Association filed a case in the Delhi High Court in connection with staff shortage, the court had directed the DJB to take steps for recruiting people against vacant posts and if need be, change recruitment rules.
The Singhal Committee was formed as a result for cadre review. However, till date, there has been no visible improvement as per the committee’s recommendations.
When asked categorically about the steps being taken by the DJB to fill the 66 vacant positions, Debashree Mukherjee, the authority’s CEO, said: “We have notified 40 positions for recruitment. Pending this, we have recruited 48 people on contract so that work does not suffer.”
Sources, however, thrashed her claim of having recruited people on contract.
“These are science graduates, termed as volunteers, and hired for just 89 days during the monsoon. How do you expect them to perform in these many days?”
Said an official: “We have extended their contract for another term of 89 days again.”