A month after announcing free lifeline water for people, the Delhi government on Thursday approved a 10% hike in water tariff. This will come into effect from April 1. An additional Rs 120 crore that the hike will bring in for the water utility is crucial not just for rolling out plans of expanding services to all parts of the city but also for maintaining a very old and crumbling water and sewer infrastructure.
The hike will not impact those who consume less than 20 kl of water per month as they would be eligible for the free lifeline water scheme. That, however, will benefit only 13 lakh-odd families and the government will compensate Delhi Jal Board to the tune of Rs 250 crore in the next financial year for this provision of free water.
The decision to hike tariff will be resented by those consumers who have been complaining of inflated bills and have blamed the new water meters for that. Government sources said the matter of water meters will be looked into immediately to remove any anomalies from the system.
“We considered various schemes, but as of now will stick to the 10% hike,” said deputy chief minister and chairman of DJB Manish Sisodia. “This will remain till a better tariff structure can be devised. The government is of the view that an annual 10% hike is not ideal and revisions should be need-based.”
The annual 10% hike, usually implementable from January 1, was introduced by the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government in 2010. Subsequently, the tariff was revised only twice. Two elections and a year of financial troubles for DJB that resulted in chaotic billing saw the hike deferred most of the time. In 2014, after coming to power, the Aam Aadmi Party government allowed for a 10% hike, saying that those who consume more should also pay more.
“DJB is not a profit-making body and is dependent on financial help from the state and Centre. However, we should still be capable of generating revenue. The tariff hike will generate an additional Rs 120 crore. This is not much considering the massive expenditure to be incurred by the Board in expanding DJB’s network and maintaining the system. There is an understanding in the government that finances are required and it will be reimbursing DJB for the expenditure incurred in the distribution of free water,” said sources.
Responding to criticism that on one hand the government has handed out a huge subsidy to a limited number of consumers and on the other was putting pressure on other consumers, senior officials said the government is clear that provision of lifeline water is its responsibility towards all citizens and believes that such a scheme should not interfere with the financial implications of a tariff revision. “There is no financial burden on DJB for the lifeline water scheme. On the other hand, a minimum quantity of good quality water should be a basic right of the people. We also believe that after a level, water cannot be free and to curb wastage, people should learn to respect it,” said sources.
According to DJB records, till April 1, 2014, Delhi had roughly 38-40 lakh households of which about 20.69 lakh have water connections. Of these, 17.77 lakh are metered connections.