Free water bonanza for Delhi residents to end soon

Delhi residents who have been enjoying subsidised water under a scheme launched by the defunct Aam Admi Party government in the state may have to forgo the benefit from the end of this month, as the now centrally-run administration has failed to renew the subsidy.

At the budget meeting of Delhi Jal Board on Tuesday, the members decided to refer the matter to lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung since the government has not sanctioned any funds beyond this financial year. The scheme is expected to cost the DJB over Rs41 crore for the last three months.

''Funding from the Delhi Government is vital for the continuation of the scheme. The board has written to the government to ask for the money,'' said board member Mira Aggarwal, who is the leader of the house in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

''If the funds from the Delhi Government are received before the first bills are made in April, the scheme could be continued. Otherwise, it will have to end as the DJB doesn't have the money for it,'' she added.

With the electoral code of conduct expected to be implemented from today, it is highly unlikely that the scheme will see an immediate revival. "Over the past three months, the Board has had to bear a subsidy of approximately Rs41 crore for providing upto 20kl of water free to its consumers. It is not in a position to bear the burden of subsidy any further," said a board member, adding that a subsidy of Rs165 crore would be needed for the next financial year to continue with the scheme.

Members of the Delhi Congress Pradesh Committee are scheduled to meet the chief executive of the DJB today to discuss the "impending water crisis in summer and hike in water tariff".

At Tuesday's meeting, the Board passed its interim budget for 2014-2015, which amounts to Rs3,928.40 crore. The board also discussed the financial burden on it due to the former government's water subsidy. The Arvind Kejriwal government had started a scheme giving each household in the National Capital Region 700 litres of free water per day.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Board said, ''The final confirmation for provision of subsidy has not been received from the Delhi Government as yet. Therefore, the Board is seeking confirmation from the government on the same.''

However, DJB member Sandeep Tanwar said he was not optimistic about getting the funds on time. ''The subsidy has caused a loss of Rs41 crore to the DJB. Where is that money coming from? It's not in the budget as the AAP Government never took it through the legal channel,'' he said.