Convention against privatization-commercialization of water in Delhi

During March, 2011, Chief Minister Mrs. Sheila Dixit finally declared that water supply in Delhi would be privatized. Earlier during 2002, the Delhi Govt. in a secretive manner commissioned the Delhi Water Supply and Sewerage Reform Project with the assistance of the World Bank. After having carried out studies through the World Bank sponsored group known as the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), a project that would have led to water service privatization in Delhi was approved in 2005. However, during 2005 a strong campaign that laid bare the anti-people approach of the government in the matter, forced the government to drop the project along with the World Bank project that was going to provide the funding.

Almost the same plan has now been introduced under a different model of privatization known as the Public Private Partnership (PPP). A Japanese Private company engaged for the purpose of suggesting the modalities of complete privatization of water has shortlisted four companies to whom the treatment, distribution, billing and revenue collection in some profitable areas of Delhi would be assigned. The work relating to the distribution of water in the areas of Nangloi, Vasant Kunj and Malaviya Nagar has already been given to private companies. The water treatment plant at Sonia Vihar is being run by the French Company- Suez Degremont.

The government is gradually moving towards total privatization of this natural resource to the peril of the common man who will have to shell out hefty amounts for water of which there is no dearth in our country. The private companies want that the Delhi government should use the money collected from the people through taxes on construction of treatment plants and laying of new lines so that they have to spend minimum on such activities after privatization. They also want that rates of water be hiked and the old water meters be replaced by new sophisticated meters on the lines of the fast running electricity meters. This is why the government in the past few years has increased the rates of water about 6 to 13 times the previous rates and is planning to raise them further. After having handed over the work of meter reading and billing to private companies, the government is going to replace the water meters also.

The people of Delhi, in poor and middle-class localities, resettlement colonies, unauthorized colonies, slum settlements and rural areas, are reeling under severe water shortage, highly irregular supply and often no supply for days. The government for a long time mismanaged the functioning of the DJB in a calculated way which ultimately undermined this utility. Making the situation so created as an excuse and to generate support for its nefarious privatization plans, the government has spread the falsehood that privatization is the only solution and a panacea to end Delhi’s water problems. It hopes that the people of Delhi who are in a desperate need of solution to the problem will accept any alternative including privatization and higher water prices.

Another important component of the privatization project is to resort to ‘staff rationalisation’ under which an assessment of current job description, age profile, liabilities on account of employee benefits e.g. pension & gratuity, and benchmarking against laid down norms will be done. The exercise would be to locate the staff of the DJB whose services would not be required after privatization. Thereafter, plans for seeking their options for VRS, resorting to their retrenchment /compulsory retirement would be finalized and new staff on contractual basis employed.

The World Bank, IMF and other such agencies working for the interests of imperialist countries have earned notoriety for their world-wide push to “reform” utilities through privatization as part of the neo-liberal economic policy framework calling for “full cost recovery” of all public services. Privatization of water supply has been pushed through in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, El Nato & La Paz (Bolivia), Brazil, Puerto Rico, Manila, Potsdam (Germany), Argentina and Nkonkobi (South Africa)Tanzania, Colombia and with disastrous consequences especially for the poor who have faced severe water deprivation and high prices. The corporate greed of these companies ruined the water sector and they were thrown out of these countries. Different models of privatization of water supply in Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai have already seen prices go up by 3 to 5 times their prevailing rates. The same policies are now sought to be imposed in the national capital after which the model will be replicated in the rest of India.

All the successive governments in the centre since the 90s of the past century- whether Congress, BJP or any other combination- have all been aggressively pursuing the policy of globalization, liberalization and opening up the markets to national and international private companies. They have gradually curtailed the social welfare sectors like health, education, water supply, electricity, transport etc. and subjected them to privatization and commercialization. It is in pursuance of this policy that the Delhi government has been told to implement the ‘full cost recovery’ system, which means that grants should be stopped, full cost of water be recovered and the system of free supply of water to the poor done away with. Steps in this direction are already being taken. It can be observed that almost all the public taps in Delhi have been closed and water rates have been hiked manifold. There has been a steep hike in water development charges and the sending of free-of-cost tankers has been gradually stopped. The day is not far off when the cost of water would be more than the cost of milk and perhaps even the cost of electricity as people can live without electricity and milk but definitely not without water.

Hence, if privatization is not stopped or resisted now then probably the property of Delhi Jal Board worth billions of rupees and built with public money would be handed over to the capitalists and profiteering companies for a pittance as happened in the case of the erstwhile Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) which was leased to the companies at a token fee of Re.1 for 99 years. Monopoly houses of Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis or MNCs would acquire this infrastructure built with public money and then reap profits worth billions by selling this natural resource and the most essential requirement of life to people.

Snatching away the right to water is tantamount to snatching away the right to life and we cannot give away this right in the interest of MNCs or the monopoly houses of the country. Now that the government is bent upon privatization-commercialization of water, all people who understand the seriousness of the matter, must rise up against this onslaught and force the government to change the decision. The only way ahead for people is to unite at all levels and create a powerful movement. The Citizen’s preparatory Committee against privatization-commercialization of water in Delhi appeals to the students, youths, women, workers, intellectuals and all the well meaning people to unite and stand up against this decision of the government. The need of the hour is to create a broad based movement through dharnas, demonstrations, public meetings, street corner meetings and move forward towards formation of people’s struggle committees from grass-root levels. We have full confidence that if we are able to do this, the government will have to change its decision resulting in the victory of the people.

In order to give shape to an effective people’s movement on the issue, a Citizen’s Convention against privatization-commercialization of water supply in Delhi is being held on 15th November, 2011 at 1.30 PM at the Hindi Bhavan Auditorium, Vishnu Digambhar Marg, near ITO, Delhi. We cordially invite you to the convention to strengthen the movement further.


• Revoke completely the decision to privatize water.
• Stop commercialization of water. Provide sufficient number of water connections at public places.
• Entire responsibility of providing sufficient, clean and quality water to all be taken up by the Government.
• Stop charging development charges from the people seeking water connections in unauthorized colonies, rehabilitation camps and villages.
• Reduce the rates of water to the minimum possible.