'See mini wars among residents every day'

'See mini wars among residents every day'

Kiran Das, a 35-year-old mother of four, hurriedly pulls her five-year-old daughter to show the “10 stitches” on her head. A resident of CD Park at Jahangirpuri in north-west Delhi, Das says the girl was injured while attempting to fill an extra can of water a week ago.

“They say the third world war will be due to water. You can already get to see mini wars among the residents here every morning and evening,” says Ravish Thakur, an educated resident of the poorly maintained colony.

Families here do not want the 667 litres of water daily as promised by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. They do not want it for free either. “We are ready to pay for it, but we should at least receive the supply at our homes,” says Das, desperately asking every now and then if the news report could influence the government to provide them water within a fortnight.

Without pipeline connectivity to their homes, hundreds of people depend on water from a few taps provided three years ago by the Delhi Jal Board on the streets. Residents say even the pipes are too thin to give water at a good speed, which is supplied for two hours every morning and evening.

The problem multiplies as half a dozen of over 200 homes have illegally pulled water connections to their houses and do not want to share the spoils. For every other 15-20 houses, there is one tap that supplies water with reduced force.

“We wake up at three in the morning to line our containers in front of the tap. But the rush does not allow us to fill more than 100 litres of water for each family. We have to decide if the water is to be used for cooking or bathing or cleaning,” says Bala Devi, another resident. Most of these families have members in excess of eight.

There are days when the pipes are damaged and drainage water mixes with drinking water or the supply is affected for as many as three days in a row. “We should at least be informed when and for how long the supply is going to be disrupted so that we can prepare in advance,” says Devi.

With the demand going up in summer, the situation becomes grimmer. “In summer, if a person has 10 containers, they do not move before they have filled all of them. It leads to fights among ourselves and the beneficiaries are police personnel who charge the guilty parties Rs 1,000 each to settle the matter,” says Madan Pa, who is a rickshaw puller by profession.

Their pleas to the local elected representatives have gone in vain. Residents claim that six months ago women of the colony went to the MLA and municipal councilor for 15 consecutive days with complaints. “Finally, the authorities came to install hand pumps.

But the first pump they installed spat out dirty water. They aborted the project and never returned,” says Azam Khan, a resident who deals in garbage for a living.

He says they requested the authorities to go ahead with the installations as they would at least have water for bathrooms and cleaning, but their plea fell on deaf ears.

There is one five-year-old hand pump for these residents, but people say that residents of two houses near the pump open the handle and keep it locked inside their houses when they aren’t using it. “The problem is so grave that they are afraid the water level will go down if too many people extract water from it,” says Nisha Devi, an old woman living there for the past 25 years.

Left with no choice, a couple of residents have illegally installed motor pumps inside their homes. But despite their “generosity” in lending some water to other houses during emergencies, others have not benefitted much. Sheikh Habib, one of the two owners, says he borrowed Rs 10,000 from friends to install it last summer.

“My electricity bill will soar if I keep the motor switched on all through the day. So I take the call if someone is in an urgent need of water. Also, a large crowd at my home at all times will draw the attention of authorities,” says Habib.

Given their sufferings before even these public taps were installed, some of these residents are even a content lot. “Till three years ago, there was just one water source outside the colony. Many would line up for water from midnight itself. Others would steal water from the taps outside well-off houses beyond our colony. Soon they noticed their water bill going up and took measures to save it from being stolen. In comparison to those days, we are in a much better position today,” says Ashmit Patel, a resident.

The “better position” is only in the sense that during a crisis, they have to use water lying in the fridge to clean their children after they have visited the toilet. “There have been times when we save the remaining of that water to drink it later,” says Das.

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