Water worker unions punch holes in govt's reasoning

 Not afraid of losing jobs, but opposing it for a ‘larger cause’; don’t trust corporate houses

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While the Delhi government has given its green signal to privatisation of water supply in the Capital, members of Delhi Jal Board employee unions term the decision as a recipe for unjustified burden on every household and a gateway to exploitation of DJB staffers.

Members of the unions are opposing the decision of the city government and have decided to organise protests across Delhi on August 13. They say they are not afraid of losing their jobs and they are opposing privatisation of water distribution for a larger cause.

“The DESU (Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking) employees didn’t lose their jobs when power distribution was privatised. Even we won’t. We are in fact opposing privatisation for a larger cause,” says Virendra Gaur, general secretary of Municipal Workers Lal Jhanda Union, an affiliate of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

“While privatisation is bound to increase water bills, employees will be exploited due to lack of proper labour laws that govern corporate houses,” says Gaur.

He says water should not be privatised since it is a basic need. With water becoming dearer, only the rich will be able to have it in abundance, he adds.

“Vasant Vihar has been selected as one of the areas for the pilot project. Now, Vasant Vihar, Vasant Enclave, West End Colony, Anand Niketan and Shanti Niketan will get water round the clock, but relatively lower middle class colonies such as Vasant Gaon, Munirka village and Kusum Pahdi will face scarcity. We will request residents of these areas to join the protest,” says Gaur.

DJB employees fear exploitation after privatisation.

“Even today several workers are hired by contractors for cleaning sewers and at water treatment plants. They are hired and fired at will. Once DJB is privatised, all employees will be at the mercy of corporate houses in the absence of proper labour laws,” says Ved Praksah Bidla, president of Delhi Jal Board Sewer Department Majdoor Sangathan.

Bidla says DJB chief executive officer Debashree Mukherjee and former CEO Ramesh Negi have not been listening to their demands of opposing privatisation. “We have met both CEOs several times. But they maintained that the decision has been taken by the Delhi government,” adds Bidla.

The union leaders also questioned the procedure of the pilot project. “If the government is going to bear the cost of relaying pipelines, then why does it want to offer the work of distribution to private companies? It’s nothing but helping private firms to mint money from investment done with public money,” Gaur alleges.

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