Water as a right in Delhi Elections

Posted by on January 28, 2015  Tagged with:
Jan 282015
 

Elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly are scheduled for February 7, nearly a year after Aam Aadmi Party [translated as the Common Man's Party] resigned on February 14th, 2014. Continuing with its earlier position, AAP in its white paper on Delhi Water has promised to provide water as a 'right' upon winning the elections while opining against the privatisation of Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

Senior party leader Ashish Khetan [says], “The DJB Act will be amended to make clean drinking water a right of people." And the party's white paper on water states, “The party opposes the privatisation of DJB and reaffirms its commitment to provide clean water in every home at an affordable price. We will abolish the mandatory annual 10 per cent hike in water tariffs." The party also promises up to 20 kilolitres [20,000 litres] of free water to every household and a piped water connection for every house. The Hindu Business Line adds, "The party also promised tough steps to eliminate the water mafia, regulation of private tankers, operationalising of water treatment plants in Dwarka, Bawana and Okhla among others."

The white paper promises 20 KL of free water to everyone and a rationale pricing mechanism after that. It also talks about implementing rain water harvesting schemes in government buildings, Delhi Development Authority colonies, private houses and others to augment the depleting water table in line with the successful experiments done in Tamlinadu. Identifying, providing water and sanitation to one third of Delhi’s population, as a prime responsibility, the white paper lists many measures to achieve this, including curbing corruption and increasing efficiency in the Delhi Jal Board.

In December 2013, the Aam Aadmi Party won 28 of the 70 seats in the Delhi legislative assembly elections. Following that, they formed a minority government with conditional support from the Indian National Congress. When it couldn't get a major piece of legislation passed, it resigned after 49 days in power.

At that time, they proposed a similar platform respecting the human right to water. The continued emphasis of the AAP on water, electricity and sanitation as key issues in the election has forced two other rival national parties Congress (which was in power for previous 15 years), and Bhartiya Janta Party (currently in power at Centre) to come out with their positions on these issues. Thus, the centrality of these basic services to the poor and disadvantaged has assumed importance in Delhi elections, something unique.

As I commented in January 2014, "While the [Aam Aadmi Party] government in Delhi means no major move towards water privatization, many crucial issues related to water demand and supply remain to be addressed. Various groups and people's movements working on water-related issues have welcomed the initiative, but also raised concerns and some points that need to be addressed. ...Many in the water justice and other social movements feel that the people of Delhi’s right to cheap, abundant water cannot come at the cost of the right to life and livelihood of people displaced by dam construction. Delhi has to find ways to be self-sufficient through water conservation, recharging water aquifers, promoting efficient use, limiting wastage, and promoting water recycling and treatment."

Further reading
Water and politics: Shaping the political agenda in Delhi (January 2014 blog by Madhuresh Kumar)

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