Quick Facts: AAP and Water tanker mafia
News channel NewsX reported how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that currently heads the Delhi Government busted an “unholy nexus” between the corrupt officials of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and private water tanker suppliers. The news report is notable for the barely disguised support for the AAP. Equally, NewsX terms this expose as a success of the new Government headed by AAP.
However, this nexus is nothing new. It exists in almost all big and small cities across the country. In places like Chennai and Bangalore for example, there exists a water tanker mafia, which has held these cities in its thrall. Repeated complaints have been sent to the concerned Government officials by aggrieved citizens in all these cities. Some Governments have acted upon it and some haven’t, as we shall see.
Further, because media outlets like NewsX have been giving disproportionate coverage to the activities of the AAP, it is relevant to unearth the record of other parties in tackling this menace.
In March 2010, the then Goa Leader of Opposition, Manohar Parrikar (now the Chief Minister) had exposed a similar nexus in the Porvorim and Mapusa Water Supply Division XVII. As a result, the
…Public Works Department…transferred 35 employees [including] one Junior Engineer Anup Sardesai, five tanker drivers, 10 plumbers, five pump operators and 14 labourers.
However, the matter did not end there. Manohar Parrikar’s interventions in exposing this bit of corruption finally forced the then PWD Minister to cancel the water tanker scheme in March 2011.
The Kutch region of Gujarat has historically suffered from acute water shortage. A situation had manifested itself several years ago where people had to walk for several kilometers to get water. However, the figures released by the Gujarat Water Supply & Sewerage Board (GWSSB) in January 2013 are self-explanatory as to the change brought about by Chief Minister Narendra Modi:
According to the Central government norms, each village should get 50 litre per capita per day (LPCD) of water, while each city should get 140 LPCD. In Gujarat, we are now providing 100 LPCD of water to every village and 150 LPCD to every town…when Saurashtra and Kutch regions of the state have been facing severe crisis of drinking water, the government machinery had been able to meet the norms by supplying about 88 LPCD to the villages and 140 LPCD to the towns and cities…reduced the annual usage of water tankers (that take water to areas facing water stress) to 500 from the earlier 5,000.. [Emphasis added]
Further, according to yet another report,
In 2001, due to droughts, a large area of the state needed water supply through tankers. In Kutch alone, 350 villages demanded this service. This scenario has drastically changed over the past decade. In 2013, even in scarcity of natural water supply, only 56 villages needed the State’s assistance in form of water tankers. [Emphasis added]
The Goa and Gujarat cases are good examples of how meaningful interventions and determined follow-ups at the level of policy are what actually make delivery of public goods meaningful.
Equally, it is a worrying sign that political parties like the AAP running the Government are indulging in exposes akin to the media, instead of providing governance.