“Universal” is a tricky word. It has an enormous appeal, an unquestioned romance of taking every one along. Universal human rights, universal access to basic services, housing for all. It is the barometer of inclusion done right. The dark side of the romance is that it’s one of the hardest things to actually achieve. Often the “universal” is a vanishing horizon and, like all horizons, the mirage is what makes you lose sight of the very real trade-off’s and constraints in your way.
This week the Delhi Jal Board announced a new horizon towards the idea of universal access to a basic urban service and human need: water. The “Jal Adhikar Connection” (a Right to Water Connection) promises to let households within slums in Delhi apply for legal, metered water connections “irrespective of the status of their residence.” This move – following the Government of Delhi’s already given pledge to extend water and sanitation services to unauthorized colonies – implies that legal, public and metered water could (like electricity) actually cover the city as it exists rather than as it is imagined in plans and laws.
Continue reading Reaching for the Universe
In summer, Delhi’s fancy turns grimly to thoughts of thirst.
How can a mega-city provide a safe and sustainable supply of water to its 24 million residents? How has it done so in the past? What do we lose when we turn our backs on a river, turn our streams into sewers and lay concrete over our ponds?
In this conversation, Sohail Hashmi summons the Delhi of history, and the Delhi of his childhood through recollections of the Yamuna, ponds, streams, and the Urdu Bazaar where everyone had a favourite well from where they drew their daily sustenance.
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GUEST POST by Satya Sagar
“Comrade! There is a man dying of thirst at the door. What is the Party line on giving water to thirsty people?”
There was a moment’s silence at the other end of the telephone and then the Great Ideologue said, “That is reformist activity. Tell him we can give our lives for the Revolution but cannot- as matter of policy- give water to the thirsty”
“But Comrade, he will die at our doorstep if we don’t give him water. Think what the bourgeois media will say then”
“You are right. Positive media coverage is important as that is the only way we reach the masses these days. But before you give him water to drink first ask him whether he believes in public or private supply of water” Continue reading The Party Left and Aap: Satya Sagar
In a tangential continuation of my last rant, a news report in the Hindu today caught my eye, because it made clear what we all know: the poor pay much much more for essential services than the rich do and therefore price of living indices as they are currently defined/calculated do not capture in any way the everyday realities of millions of Indians.
Continue reading Water…