After ending the capital’s VIP culture, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government on Monday fulfilled the Aam Aadmi Party’s first big electoral promise, announcing 666 litres of free water supply every day to each household with functional water meters.
This amounts to roughly 34 buckets of water to a family of five every day.
The announcement was made by the newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Delhi Jal Board, Vijay Kumar, at a press conference in front of Mr. Kejriwal’s residence.
Free of cost
Mr. Vijay Kumar later told journalists: “All the domestic consumers having metered connection will get 20 kilolitres of water a month free of cost, starting January 1. We will not even levy any existing charge such as water cess and sewerage charge. But if the consumption limit crosses 20 kilolitres, the consumer will have to pay for the total water, and other charges.”
At present, consumers pay Rs. 200 for 20 kilolitres of water a month. In its manifesto, the AAP promised the electors 700 litres of free water supply daily to each household.
Immediately after the announcement was made, Mr. Kejriwal tweeted: “It is the duty of any responsible government to provide ‘lifeline water’ to its citizens. We may debate the quantum but can we argue against the principle?”
The Chief Minister also clarified that the free water scheme was not for three months as reported by a section of the media. “It is wrongly being said our decision is for three months. Decision is for good. But obviously financial calculations are for the remaining period of the current financial year which will end on March 31,” he said.
He also explained that the DJB would incur a revenue loss of just Rs. 160 crore a year and Rs. 40 crore for the rest of the financial year.
However, the freebie has come with a spike in water tariff by 10 per cent for consumption above 666 litres. The increase is expected to enable the DJB generate the extra revenue at the cost of rich consumers, said a DJB official.
Sources in the DJB said that for the population living outside the water supply network, the board would deploy tankers.
The government’s decision would bring joy only to those who have water connections. According to government statistics, 30 per cent of Delhi’s population live in urban villages and unauthorised colonies, and these localities — which house poor sections — have no official water connection.
The city has 14,000 km of water pipeline network, and only 68 per cent of the households have piped water connection. About 25 per cent of the city area remains uncovered by the pipelined supply.
The latest report from the Comptroller and Auditor-General says there remains inequality in water distribution. The per capita availability varies from 29 litre per capita daily (LPCD) on the outskirts to 509 LPCD in posh areas.
According to the report, “the Delhi Jal Board has neither a proper system to measure the water supply to different areas, nor does it have access to reliable data on population in different areas. It, therefore, cannot ensure equitable supply of water.”