Story By
M Basit 
“Look at all this dirty water surrounding the hand pump, it percolates and contaminates the ground water below. It is the only hand pump for people living in this area, we are left with no choice but to buy water for cooking and drinking”, says Ganesh a labourer living near Bees Footta road in Jamia Nagar, Delhi.

Prime Minister of India urged the Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation to ensure provision of basic services to the urban poor in his speech while launching Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005.
However  access to safe drinking water still eludes many urban localities and  urban poor are the worst affected. Jamia Nagar is one such area where for many reasons basic amenities are still not reaching the people from low income groups.

Comparing the public facilities of the area with other parts of the Delhi , Rukhsana a maid servant living in Jamia Nagar says, “The low income households surrounding the ‘kothis’ (bungalows) of Hazrat Nizamuddin area, where I work, have easily accessible water taps which people there use for cooking and drinking.”

Provision of Basic Services to Urban Poor, a mandatory urban poverty reform for all local bodies supported under JNNURM mandates all local bodies to provide basic services (including water supply and sanitation) to all poor but the public water works department have little to contribute in the issue. “We have a few tube wells operating in the area, we are not supplying water tankers in the Jamia Nagar because it is a congested area,” said Delhi Jal Board official who does not wished to be named

In the absence of public drinking water facilities a number of water treatment plants have come up in the locality. They work on the principle of economy of scale and draws large volume of water from bore wells. Water is then sanitized in treatment plant and packed in plastic cans. The vendors supply these cans on cycle carts to the various users in the locality at varying rate of Rupees 10 to 15 per can.

There are allegations about bribes and complicity of officials. Ameeqe Jamaei joint secretary of All India Youth Federation Delhi state council alleges, “The elected representatives have let down the very people who got them elected. There are nearly 150 water treatment plant operators in Shaheen Bagh area alone. Each plant operator is paying nearly 10,000 rupees in bribes to MCD officials, police and councillors in the Jamia Nagar area to keep their business running”.

The spending on the most basic facility like drinking water affects the financial health of the low income group families and individuals. Abdul Rehman, a rickshaw puller earns 200 Rupees and 25 Rupees equals to 5 to 10 percent of his household income and other people like him. Residents in the locality find other options like portable water cleaners and packaged drinking water expensive and they rely on water supplied by the operators. “The water from the bore wells in many areas is not fit for human consumption and we are left with no option but to use can water as we cannot afford expensive measures like Reverse Osmosis (RO) Filters and branded bottled water”, says Sultan Khan a resident of Johri Farm area in Jamia Nagar. In the 65th year of  Indian independence, Jamia Nagar still waits for the fulfilment of promises made to them.