By Pramod Kumar
Delhiites still wait for round-the-clock, uninterrupted electric supply, contrary to what the Delhi government and the private companies had proclaimed about a-year-and-a-half ago. Notwithstanding the fact that access to pure water is a basic human right and the Central Government, in its Water Policy adopted in April 2002, disallowed privatisation of water, the Delhi government forwarded steps to privatise water through the back door. It has allegedly allowed a French multinational company, Degremont, to take over the ownership of Delhi'swater supply. Not only this, the security of the water plant is going to be handed over to a private agency, which is in clear violation of the Official Secrets Act. Under this Act, a water treatment plant providing drinking water to people should be given State security and is to be treated totally out-of-bounds for foreigners.
People of Delhi, who have been getting water at 35 paise per kilo litre, will now have to pay Rs 15 per kilo litre, as soon as the privatisation process is completed. Degremont has been asked to build the multi-crore Sonia Vihar water treatment plant. Wherever in the world the water has been privatised, the tariff has increased manifold, sometimes up to more than 450 per cent.
Though, Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit denies that privatisation is on her agenda, her government has concealed vital facts on the contract drawn up with the Degremont. The state government has not only paid a sum of Rs 200 crores to Degremont to set up the water treatment facility, it has also allowed it to install the project and run it on operate-and-maintain (O&M) basis for ten years.
The Delhi BJP president, Dr Harshvardhan has questioned the need to engage a French company with an O&M contract as the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has so far been supplying water to Delhi's14 million residents. ?Why has Degremont been given counter guarantees? What are the specific terms of this aspect of the contract? Why is the government so secretive about it?,? he asked. He added that the suspicion grows when one considers that the entire project report was prepared under World Bank funding to the tune of Rs 10 crores. The World Bank is known to be championing the cause of water privatisation under its infamous water sanitation programme.
The Chief Minister has announced the setting up of a Water Regulatory Authority in Delhi. The question arises: What is the need for a regulatory authority if a government utility, DJB, will continue to be the supplier? Regulatory bodies are always set up to act as a neutral authority between the private distributor-supplier and consumer. It appears that the DJB is being systematically annihilated in order to facilitate the entry of multinationals into the field of water supply. ?The plan to destroy the DJB is characterised by massive corruption and inefficiency in the water management of the state. Of the approved outlay of Rs 2,38,200 lakhs for the Ninth Plan, it spent only Rs 1,79,608 lakhs, which is only 75 per cent,? pointed out Dr Harshvardhan when raising the question of the setting up of a special cell in DJB for dealing with the World Bank'swater sanitation programme.
Dr Harsh Vardhan challenged the Chief Minister to a public debate on the issue. ?The lives and future of cores of Delhiites is at stake. Our national sovereignty is going to be compromised. Foreign involvement in Delhi'sSonia Vihar project, which appears grossly Draconian and anti-people in the long run, must be avoided at all costs and better options explored,? he concluded.
The Govt of Delhi has allowed multinational company, Degremont, to take over the ownership of Delhi'swater supply. Not only this, the security of water is also going to be handed over to a private agency, which is clear violation of the Official Secrets Act.