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Abdication of responsibility

Swathi Shivanand

People of Thyaginagar slum consume water that is unfit for use


  • The water has been certified as `unfit for potable purposes'
  • It is obligatory for local bodies to provide water to the poor



    IN SHORT SUPPLY: A file picture of pots kept ready at a borewell at Sanjay Gandhi Nagar in Bangalore. — Photo: K. Murali Kumar

    BANGALORE: "We often fall ill. It is just that none of us has died yet drinking this water," says Vijayamma. She is tired of repeating her problems to presspersons who come to Thyaginagar slum here once in a while.

    For her and hundreds of others in the slum, nothing has changed. They continue to consume unsafe water — water layered with white flakes and blended with excess nitrate — because the Government has not provided clean water.

    Hundreds of people living in the slum use this water every day, certified by the Department of Health and Family Welfare as "unfit for potable purposes", for bathing, cooking and drinking.

    On World Environment Day, while water pollution and water scarcity have become the focus of innumerable debates, it is the poor, the ones with the least resources to fight, who are the most affected.

    "Every household pays Rs. 10 for maintaining the borewell, dug by the Dasarahalli City Municipal Council. If it breaks down, which it does once in two months, we collect money and pay for its repair. Then, we wait for the `water man' to give us this unclean water whenever he chooses," explains Mahesh, who fights for the basic rights of his people in the slum.

    Jayalakshmi speaks of how she rations the dirty water. "We have bath once in a week. When there is no water for more than a week, we spend Re. 1 per pot and buy at least 20 pots of water. That is enough for a day for my family of five." She spends at least Rs. 450 for water and much more towards doctor's fees and medicines.

    Kalyanamma describes the activity in the slum when they receive water from the few community taps they have. "We do not go for work and lose our daily wages. Children do not go to school and they help us fill water into the pots as fast as possible."

    Ganesh, a member of the Slum Jagruthi Vedike and a resident of the slum, shows a copy of the letter in which the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board has said that it does not have the money to provide water to this slum. It advises them to seek help with the Dasarahalli CMC.

    He then shows a letter from the CMC which says that funds had not been allocated for providing basic amenities in slums and that they should seek help from the slum clearance board.

    The water situation in this slum is representative of the water crisis that the urban poor grapple with every day. "The crisis is not because of water scarcity alone," says Clifton D'Rosario, member of Campaign against Water Privatisation and Alternative Law Forum.

    On the contrary, the Government does not seem to even want to give the poor the water they have a constitutional right over.

    Municipal rules make it obligatory for local bodies to provide water to the poor. But in this slum and the hundreds across Bangalore, people wage a daily battle for survival as they wait for authorities to understand their constitutional duties.

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