In a tangential continuation of my last rant, a news report in the Hindu today caught my eye, because it made clear what we all know: the poor pay much much more for essential services than the rich do and therefore price of living indices as they are currently defined/calculated do not capture in any way the everyday realities of millions of Indians.
A new initiative for improving access to clean water and educate the public about the hazards of drinking contaminated water with a rare collaboration among panchayat samitis, government departments and private institutions has improved the quality of life for many grappling with high fluoride content in water in Goner village, 20 km from here.
Fluoride in water is a major health hazard for the residents of Goner – comprising 800 households – and the diseases of bones, joints and teeth, including deformity, after long-term consumption of ground water are common among the villagers. Private organisations such as Nandi Foundation, Bosch and Mahatma Gandhi Medical College have joined hands with the local Panchayat Samiti and the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) to provide an answer to the challenge on the heath front for villagers by installing a reverse osmosis-based water purifier.
Sounds good right? I mean surely the provision of clean drinking water is something to celebrate. But wait, this is what the water costs an individual household:
Bosch has donated the water purifier with the capacity of supplying 1,000 litres of water per hour for the entire village. Water is supplied on a nominal charge of Rs.92 per month for a household for a 20-litre canister everyday.
A nominal charge? Rs 100 per month for a little over 600 litres is certainly not a nominal charge, it is very very expensive. This is what consumers in Delhi pay for their water.
As per the new tariff structure, consumers who were paying monthly water charge of Rs 52 for consuming 10 kilo litres of water will have to pay Rs 82 from the next billing cycle beginning January one.
Similarly, the consumers who were shelling out Rs 82 for consumption of 20 kilo litres of water will now have to pay Rs 180, an increase of more than two times.
The Government also announced a more than two and half times increase for the consumers whose monthly consumption is 30 kilo litre of water. These consumers will have to now shell out Rs 470 against the existing charge of Rs 187. The revised rates will come into effect from January 1, next year.
After the price hike a household in Delhi will pay Rs 52 for 10,000 litres of water per month and Rs 180 for 20,000 litres of water per month! And remember this is for authorized DJB water connections, which large numbers of people don’t have. Private water tankers, the supply source for large numbers of Delhi’s poor who live in unauthorized settlements charge Rs 100 for 1,000 litres of water. And the DJB still carps on about “leakage” “stealing” and “wastage”, namely that “unauthorized” interlopers are diverting precious water resources away from the city. A rich household in Delhi currently consumes over 4 times as much water as a poor household.
(Which then brings us to the incredible and amazing truth that whoever thought of packaging water and selling it was an absolute corporate genius. Take a substance to which you have to do absolutely nothing, clean it up and pour it into a bottle, unaltered, unchanged, as god made it, and charge Rs 45 for 25 litres!)