City's tanker mafia makes a killing

Business pegged at Rs 400 crore annually serves those let down by DJB

City's tanker mafia makes a killing

A network of private water tanker companies has emerged in the capital to tackle water shortage and residents have little choice but to buy their water. The business pegged at Rs 400 crore annually is run by people who are particularly targeting areas that are let down by the Delhi Jal Board.

It is pertinent to mention that the state government does not provide piped water in most of the unauthorised colonies. Private tanker operators are exploiting these shortfalls and selling water at exorbitant rates.

Delhiites are willing to pay anything between Rs 800 and Rs 1,500 for 1,000 litres of water. For a 5,000-litre tanker, they shell out around Rs 3,000 and for a 12,000-litre tanker around Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000. Establishments such as hotels and hospitals opt for bigger tankers that have a capacity of 24,000 litres, paying Rs 10,000.

Sweta Rawat, a resident of Aram Bagh in central Delhi’s Pahar Ganj, told Deccan Herald that people in the government colony depend on private suppliers as they get only 10 minutes of water supply twice a day.

“The situation gets worse in summer when sometimes we don’t get water for days. DJB officials often claim that uneven water supply is due to maintenance related work,” she says. Water tankers are sent to the colony by DJB but they fail to fulfill the need. “There are also occasions when DJB tankers don’t turn up and we are forced to call private suppliers,” Sweta adds.

According to the government rules, if a call is made to an emergency number of the DJB, it is mandatory for the water board to send a tanker in response within three hours.

At times allegations are also leveled about a nexus between certain politicians and workers of various political parties who ensure that water supply to an area is disrupted so that the tanker mafia can move in to make a killing. When asked about the uneven rate for supply of water tankers, a private operator in south Delhi’s Mahipalpur says that the price keeps fluctuating on the basis of demand.

“We also look for profit and prefer customers who offer more money for our services,” Aman Kumar says.

He declined to give details about the source of water for the tankers but it is alleged that over 2,000 private tankers draw water from tubewells and Delhi Jal Board connections through corruption.

A plea has also been filed before the National Green Tribunal alleging that the tanker mafia is behind illegal tubewells in the capital and authorities are either “hand in glove” with them or “turning a blind eye” to such activities. Notices have been issued over the plea to the central government, state government, DJB, Central Ground Water Authority and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation.

A notification issued in July 2010 by the Lt Governor stated that groundwater cannot be withdrawn through borewells and tubewells without permission of the CGWA, DJB or the NDMC for any domestic, commercial and agricultural purpose.   

Now, after fulfilling the promise of providing 700 litres of free water to Delhi residents, the Aam Aadmi Party is also planning to crack down on the tanker mafia. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting with the DJB chief and told him that “the mafia has to be broken”.

“We have asked the DJB to ensure that in areas that do not receive piped water supply, drinking water should be supplied by DJB tankers and not private tankers,” Kejriwal said.

According to the 2011 Census, approximately 80 per cent households in Delhi got piped water supply – of 33.41 lakh households, 27.16 lakh got piped water. The remaining 20 per cent were dependent on water tankers for daily needs.

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