G. Anand

Irregularities in the processing of applications for water connections detected

Thiruvananthapuram: The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) conducted surprise inspections in Kerala Water Authority (KWA) offices across the State on Tuesday and detected numerous irregularities in the processing of applications for water connections.

The inspections have exposed how new consumers are often forced to pay extra money, often up to Rs.2,000, for avoiding any delay in getting a pipe connection. Licensed plumbers often act as intermediaries between applicants and officials responsible for water connections. The anti-corruption exercise, codenamed `Operation Varun,' was conducted almost simultaneously in 28 KWA Assistant Executive Engineer's offices in the State.

The VACB found that more than 5,000 applications for water connections were pending in the KWA offices. The highest number of applications, some of them pending for six years, was found in Thrissur district. It was found that the KWA authorities in Thrissur were accepting applications for water connections only once in two years. In many cases, water connections were allotted superseding seniority.

The State's policy is that piped drinking water could not be denied to any citizen on grounds of shortage of supply, lack of sufficient water pressure or infrastructure. The rules specify that once an application for water connection is received, the authorities have to inspect the proposed site within 15 days and send a detailed acknowledgement note to the applicant. The note should also specify the status of the application. However, no such action was seen taken on a large number of applications. In many "favoured" cases, water connection was allotted within a week's time, an official said. In "less favoured" cases, people had to wait for months and even years. The VACB was investigating whether any commercial institutions were given water connection at the subsidised rate. Additional Director-General of Police Siby Mathew and Deputy Inspector-General of Police Surendran headed the operation.

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