Thirsty villagers in Nabha threaten to protest if water supply not resumed
“It's been three days, we have been borrowing water. Why are we, poor people, being harassed by cutting our water supply," said Isro devi, a poor woman of Rohta village in Nabha. The powercom had disconnected its supply to the water supply tank at the village for non-payment of the bill.punjab Updated: Mar 02, 2017 15:54 IST
“It's been three days, we have been borrowing water. Why are we, poor people, being harassed by cutting our water supply," said Isro devi, a poor woman of Rohta village in Nabha. The powercom had disconnected its supply to the water supply tank at the village for non-payment of the bill.
"As per a drive to collect the outstanding bills, the pending amount above Rs 50,000 has been put in defaulters’ list and the connections are being cut. Most of these are government departments including police stations, jails, irrigation departments, sewa kendras etc. Similarly, the waterworks in 38 villages, where the outstanding amount exceeded Rs 50,000 have been disconnected on the orders of higher authorities in the Nabha block, including government and private water works both. ," said an electricity board employee.
Harbhagwan Dutt, village panchayat member, said that no notice was served before cutting the supply. When the village was visited, a number of villagers, mostly from poor or Dalit families, gathered around in a few minutes to express their woes.
"The rich are setting up submersibles to draw water individually, but the poor have no option," said Paramjeet Kaur. "We have paid our share of the bill. The temperature is increasing. The kids and cattle consume more water," said Laxmi.
The panchayat members say that they have no common land in the village and no source of income. The repairs and maintenance of the water supply and tank is done from the fund collected. Executive engineer of the electricity board could not be reached despite attempts. The villagers also submitted a memorandum to the Tehsildar to resume the power supply.
As per sources, last year also the power supply department tried to take the similar steps but the political leaders procrastinated the action without solving the issue in its roots.
An employee of public health and water supply told that this private system of water supply is built by the contribution of villagers, the state government and a long-term loan from the World Bank as per a scheme of 2007-08. The system is there on driven privately by the villagers on their own. The committees generally, gram panchayat only run the system built under this scheme with the contribution from villagers.
In Rohta village, every household pays Rs 100 per month for water supply from this private waterworks system. Out of 300 households in the village, around 100 households mostly coming from poor or dalit families draw water from this tubewell. The others afford individual submersibles for their daily needs. With 6000-7000 monthly charges of power consumption, the water supply costs around 10-12 thousand monthly including the salary of the operator. The maintenance expenditures are additional told the panchayat members.
Social activists condemn the system and say that the government has created a system of privatisation and division in people. "The 73rd amendment in the Constitution mandates to provide administrative and financial powers of 29 public departments to village panchayats. It's been 23 years and no progress on that part has been shown. The Constitution allocates 33% of the state budget directly to the panchayats as per population to run these departments thereby decentralising the power. Instead of that, the governments have come up with such agreements to shrug off the responsibility without giving them any powers," says Gurmeet Singh, a social activist. "
The panchayat members of the village also repent on the agreement. "The offer seemed lucrative at that time as we were provided no other means for regular water supply to the villagers. Over the years, we realised our fault," said Harbhagwant Dutt, the panchayat member. The water supply officials are refusing any help claiming no jurisdiction on the private waterworks. The panchayat members demand subsidy on unit price of power supply for water supply.