Scarcity of water both unites and divides the residents of lane number 24 in south Delhi’s Tughlaqabad. While on the one hand the lack of the crucial resource has led to bitter fights, on the other hand it has strengthened secularism.
In this neighbourhood, dominated mostly by Muslims, residents do not get a drop of water for as long as eight days. Their only respite is a borewell that the management of a nearby temple opens for them every morning and sometimes also in the evening.
“There are days when we cannot even offer namaz because there is no water to take a bath. People start lining up near the temple borewell, which is opened early in the morning, late in the night to get water. If this water was not available, we would not even have water to drink,” said Shabnam, a resident of the colony.
Sana Khan and Seema Kumari have been neighbours for the past 12 years now and there have been days when Sana stood in long queues holding water cans for Seema’s family.
“We understand how all household work gets stalled if we miss storing water. In case I manage to get into the queue before Seema, I take her cans and fill water for her too. Though because of it people standing behind me shout, scream and abuse me but they also understand each other’s plight,” said Sana.
Eighty five-year-old Mehrusina Begum said she walks to the local distributor’s office almost daily. She has been living in the area for over 50 years and has seen the availability of water deteriorate day by day.
“I do not have the energy to stand in queues for so long. I told the junior engineer that I don’t have water to have my medicine and he shunned me away saying that it is not his job to help me have my medicine,” she said.
Residents complain that for more than half the month there is no water supply available in the locality but every house in the street still gets an average water bill of Rs 4,000 every month.
Another problem is there is one water line for two lanes.
“The water supply gets divided and when we do get water the supply is only available for half-an-hour. The pressure of the water is also barely enough to fill one drum. We have sent several pleas to the government to make a single water line for our street so that the supply does not get divided,” said Sajid Khan.