Water Woes: Girls Take On DU Administration Over Water Crisis
NEW DELHI: At a time when Kanhaiya Kumar and co are taking on the JNU administration, there is another lesser known battle fought in Delhi University. On the face of it, both the problems might seem different but a closer scrutiny will reveal the real picture: lack of responsibility; little accountability; and the difficulty of approachability on the part of the administration.
Harleen Kaur, a student of English literature lives in Rajiv Gandhi hostel for girls. While the country has been grappling with a sustained (natural) draught, Harleen and her friends too suffered from a (manufactured) draught like situation for the last six months.
To put things into perspective: Rajiv Gandhi hostel for girls was not receiving adequate water supply since September 2015. The supply is from Delhi Jal Board; there is an underground tank which stores water coming from the Jal Board. There were days when occupants of the hostel did not have water to “brush their teeth” in the morning.
Lack of responsibility
Harleen recalls the tough times and blames the hostel management for carelessness and lack of responsibility. “We would wake up with no water; and the quality of drinking water was so bad that many students developed typhoid and other diseases,” she tells The Citizen.
When she decided that enough is enough, she reported the matter to the House keeper. There was no response. Then she went to the tutor; again she was told that things will be back to normal in the coming days. Facing disappointment again, she tried to contact the warden of the hostel but was denied an appointment.
Seeing such a sedate response from the hostel management, she started an online petition on change.org to mobilize support. “I had no other option left. The petition was able to mobilize support, and then I decided to approach the Jal board directly,” recalls Harleen. She complained to the assistant engineer SK Goyal of Jal Board office,Mukherjee Nagar. She was shocked to find out that they were “not informed” from the hostel management or the University administration about the sustained water crisis. Further questioning led to startling revelations.
According to Harleen, the University “cleverly evaded” its responsibility. This is not the end of the story. The most shocking thing about the case has been the “blame-game” between University administration and Jal Board authorities. Jal Board alleged that they had no information about this issue while the University administration tried to play down the issue.
A “prolonged struggle and massive outrage” from the hostel students resulted in bringing together Water Minister, Delhi, Mr. Kapil Mishra, Delhi Jal Board engineers, Delhi University engineering department, Rajiv Gandhi hostel for girls warden Mrs. Poonam Silotia, Deputy Proctor Dr. Kazim, Resident Tutor Mrs. Sandeep Kaur and many others on a single table and discuss the issue.
The water bills revealed that around1.5 lakhs litre of water was supplied to the hostel by the Jal Board, and that the lapse was on the part of the hostel management.
A prompt action ensued:Delhi Jal board was asked to give a broader connection, approximately 3 inches from the previous 1.5 inches; University engineers have been asked to monitor the dispersal of water properly; the quality of water is to be checked weekly,according to the parameters of Delhi Jal Board; water sample from the hostel would be tested in the laboratory to check the TDS, calcium, magnesium and other minerals in the water in the next few days.
Harleen is “thankful” for the “immediate response by the water minister, Kapil Misra.Had it not been for the efforts of Harleen Kaur, the crisis would have worsened by the day. According to her, she only hopes for a “responsible attitude” towards students in the future.
It’s too early to say that the crisis is resolved, especially as troubling questions still remain: What was the hostel management doing since September? Who is responsible for the communication gap between University administration and Jal board officials? And, what action will the University take against the defaulting hostel staff?