Touts take over water depot, run amok
Taps may be running dry in Delhi, but the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) tankers ensure it’s raining, quite literally, in its Greater Kailash 1 pumping station. Afternoon is siesta time for the board’s employees even as people wait outside from 6am to 10pm to book a water tanker. Then there are touts and the water mafia who hoard water, making it impossible for an average Delhiite to get free water tankers without paying them.
Inside, the office wears a deserted look. Hardly anyone is in their seat. One DJB employee is seen snoozing on his desk. But outside, there’s a huge crowd — people from several south Delhi localities come here every day till they get a tanker booking slip from the DJB emergency booking counter. "The waiting list here goes up to a week. Even after that we don’t get more than 400-500 litres of water," said Ajay Bhatia, who came to the station from Kalkaji. "Even after getting this slip, there’s no guarantee the tanker will reach us till we pay tanker drivers. There have been times when we got the tanker allotted but the driver sold the water somewhere in between," said Prashant Chaudhary, a resident of Dakshin Puri.
All this and more was what HT found when it visited the pumping station. In the scorching 43 degree Celsius heat of the Capital, the station was nothing short of a water park. People were seen taking showers under the tankers and trucks were being washed with water meant to be supplied to nearby colonies. Children were seen paying Rs 10 to junior DJB employees for a quick shower. “There’s no other way to keep ourselves cool,” said Nitin, who studies in a government school near Madangir Village, not far from the DJB station.
So, most go the illegal way. They pay touts and agents for water. “Sanitation workers here allot tankers, that too after charging around Rs 1,500. Touts have tied up with the sanitation workers,” said Ambreesh Lal from Sangam Vihar. Lal says his area does not get any direct water supply.
In fact, there are alternate booking counters just nearby the DJB booking counter where touts allot tanker numbers to people. The process is professional: Once money exchanges hands, a slip, that has the tanker number, water quantity and driver's phone number on it, is handed over. And they promise water delivery in an hour.
"It is better to pay than to wait for a week. We do get regular supply, so we don’t need tankers often. But whenever we do, we pay these guys,” said Shantanu Varma, a resident of Chirag Delhi.
So an HT team posed as a customer and approached a tout for tanker delivery to Greater Kailash for a marriage function. “The tanker would be available in half an hour. You need to pay Rs 1,500 here and Rs 500 to the driver after the delivery,” Pyare Bhaiya, the tout, told the team.
Rickshaw-pullers too are earning a quick buck in the absence of any vigilance at the pumping station. They fill 20-litre bottles from the station and sell them in commercial establishments such as Nehru Place. “I pay Rs 10 per bottle to DJB employees and fill up to 30 such bottles every day. I then sell them for R30 each in Nehru Place,” said Chander Prakash, a rickshaw-puller.
The GK-1 station gets its supply from the Sonia Vihar plant and is supposed to provide water tankers to half of south Delhi colonies such as GK, Malviya Nagar, Khel Gaon, Hauz Khas, Khanpur and Sangam Vihar.