Delhi Water crisis: How Jats left our house stirred, and a lesson from Japan
Today morning when clear, bubbling water gushed out of pipes into our underground tanks, it was celebratory spectacle to behold. Driver, guard, cook, helper and my dear self - we circled around the tank in disbelief. Yes, it was water at last, released by Jal Board after 4 days, sprinkling elixir on our parched lives.
I felt in reality what those in a desert chasing a mirage would feel, when they would actually come across a real oasis and touch the life giving fluid with their own hands.
Ever since the Jats in Haryana took to the streets, living our everyday lives had become a struggle. Water for washing clothes, utensils, bathing, even drinking had become extremely scarce. Slogans raised by Jats reverberated in our ears – “If you want to kill us with hunger, we will leave you to die of thirst”. They had screamed these threats in shudh Haryanvi, as they damaged the Munak canal that carries water to Delhi. We talked amongst ourselves of how lucky we were to live in relative peace and empathised with those destined to be in countries like Syria!
I am personally against reservations and that too nearly 70 years after Independence. When LPG gas subsidy can be withdrawn from households with over Rs 10 lakh of income per annum, then reservation should be denied to any economically well off family across caste and religion.
What I find worse is disruptive protest – when people take to the streets, burn vehicles, damage public property, turn off water supplies; and when the Army is forced to come out to control civilian disorder. In this case the military had to be deployed in Haryana even as it battled terrorists amidst hostile Kashmiri population in Pampore. It’s sad but true – the Army is needed not only to deal with external threat, but internal dissent as well. This is how much we help our country!
Violent protests also trigger a chain reaction, and that is truly unfair. For example, staring at empty water tanks at home, we had no choice but to register for Jal Board’s water tanker service. Despite repeated assurances from them for 48 hours, tankers never arrived. We live in Vasant Vihar and had contacted the Jal Board office of our block. Officials there told us that they had been instructed to supply water to R K Puram, and not houses here! I cannot put it as the truth, but my hunch is that the problem was first addressed in areas which make for better vote-banks.
So poor us, we were left to fend for ourselves. We contacted, begged and pleaded with a private water tanker. Obviously, private suppliers were having a field day. Being chased earnestly by desperate families who had not a drop left to drink, they were charging black market rates of Rs 1000/- per 3000 litres and Rs 1500-1700/- for 6000 litres in Delhi. Not satiated with their profits when it came to relatively posh colonies, even black market rates were doubled.
We ended up paying a ransom of Rs 3000/- for 5000 litres. If the water crisis had not eased for another week or so, I can say with certainty that we would have been willing to exchange the family silver for a tank full of fluid ambrosia. This is what our state had been reduced to.
However, in this entire episode, there was a silver lining. We had sent small notes to our tenants about water scarcity and requested prudence in usage till normal supplies returned. Genuinely, what we learnt from our Japanese tenants has been a lesson for life.
Immediately, the Japanese family purchased 20 gallons of water from the market for the purpose of drinking and cooking rather than putting the burden on us. They bathed their two young children at one go; cooked in only one vessel throughout the day, so as to avoid washing too many utensils; stopped use of their washing machine and much more. Why Japan is what it is and how the Japanese as a race are so conscientious when it comes to proper resource utilization was evident from the way this family behaved. And they did this quietly and without a murmur or fuss.
India must also travel the journey from unsettling our own country for our myopic gains to experimenting with lessons of nation building. Because till the time we don’t take a resolve in positivity, we will continue to punch beneath our weight. And our definition of collective prosperity will continue to be a relative one - when one can afford to live in a bungalow of Rs 100 crore but has to depend on the mercy of others for a 1000 litres of water!