Going beyond populist measures taken by other state governments, such as free laptops, free cycles to girls or rice at Rs. 2 per kg, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government announced free water for Delhiites.
The AAP government on Monday announced the provision of up to 20,000 litres per month water free from January 1 for all domestic consumers with functional metres. Those consuming more than 20,000 litres per month will need to foot the full bill according to the hiked tariff of 10%, also applicable from January 1.
This first major policy decision for citizens by the Arvind Kejriwal government – promised in the AAP manifesto – will on one hand help in preventing water wastage, AAP claims, and on the other hand, increase Delhi Jal Board’s (DJB) revenue.
An AAP leader said, “As grass root activism has taught us, we have always favoured optimum use and conservation of water. Delhi needs to cut down on wasteful water expenditure.”
Monday’s decision entitles a minimum of 135 litres per capita per day (lpcd) water to all eligible consumers. This is not just commensurate with Ministry of Urban Development norms, but also comparable, and in some cases more, than similar examples across the world. Germany consumes 121 lpcd water, France 150 lpcd, Israel 135 lpcd, Sweden 200 lpcd and Brazil provides 143 lpcd water.
This free-water facility, however, will not benefit the real aam aadmi (common man). For instance, several areas of Dwarka or Mehrauli, which are at the tail end of the distribution network, face problems getting regular DJB water and rely on tankers. Similarly, Sangam Vihar, an unauthorised colony in south Delhi, is not connected to DJB distribution network and hence will not get this benefit.
Commenting on how the government plans to reach out to those left out, Manish Sisodia, AAP leader and minister in the new government, told HT, “Most areas have distribution issues. For instance in Sangam Vihar, the local distribution is already in place. We just need to ensure its connectivity with main supply chain.”
The government, two days after it was sworn in, has already set in motion a process for improving the supply network, he said.
The total cost for the ‘20,000 litres’ free water will work out to only Rs. 160 crore. This, Sisodia said, can be easily taken care of by preventing corrupt practices and unnecessary expenditure. “DJB has been issuing fraudulent contracts. It has come to our notice that DJB has spent `4 lakh on just a lunch programme. Things will automatically improve when we stop this. Moreover, DJB has been showing profits for last few years.”