Shimla Water Crisis : CPI (M) on the streets against the indifference of the BJP-led Mun. Corp | Team SI
Hundreds of people marched on the streets of Shimla under the banner of CPI (M) against the acute water crisis in the city. The city whose economy is dependent on tourism is being paralyzed by the water crisis since the water shortage is not only impacting the households but also the hotels, restaurants and the roadside dhabas (eateries).
The protesters marched to the office of the Shimla Municipal Corporation with empty buckets in hand. While the scale of water crisis is such that in many of the wards of the city there has been no water supply in the last five-six days; the municipal corporation is making no efforts whatsoever to solve the crisis.
In fact, water crisis is not new to Shimla. BJP, which is now ruling both the municipal corporation and the state government, had used the water crisis as a major campaign plank during the elections for the urban local body last year. In an unprecedented scenario, CPI (M)’s candidates had won the post of mayor and deputy mayor in 2007 when direct elections were held for the first and last time. However, given the fact that CPI (M)’s actual strength in the corporation was just 12% (mayor, deputy mayor and 2 councilors), while that of the opposition was 88% (BJP’s 12 councilors and Congress’ 11 councilors) meant that BJP and Congress united on various occasions to stall any pro-people measure from the CPI (M)’s elected representatives. This was not merely a politicking against another party; this was a ruling class response to an unprecedented situation wherein long sustained movement of workers and students in the city was making its impact for the first time (except the election of Rakesh Singha as MLA in 1993) in the electoral arena.
In spite of all these handicaps, many important initiatives were undertaken by the MC during 2007-12 to solve the water crisis. The issue in Shimla is not only that of regular water supply, it is the poor quality of water too that is an issue (Note that since 2015-16 there has been recurring epidemic of Jaundice in the city every year). The formation of greater Shimla water supply and sewerage circle (GSWSSC) during the previous MC’s regime was instrumental in ensuring that the entire responsibility of the water distribution, as well as the treatment of sewerage water was brought under a single institution. This has brought a qualitative change and leap in water and sewerage management. However, the quantitative change that was anticipated out of this couldn’t be materialized since the project was dependent on the allocation of funds from the state government and the Congress government ensured that the project doesn’t succeed.
BJP is taking forward Congress’ agenda a step further. In a planned manner it is working to destroy the water distribution system in the centre so that it can be privatized. Balbir Prasher, the secretary of the Shimla Urban local committee of CPI (M) addressing the protesters alleged that “People close to BJP have already setup a water distribution company and the BJP leaders are working to ensure profits for this company.” Further, “the employees of the society set up for the door-to-door garbage collection are being harassed by the current MC, forcing them to go on strike at four occasions in the last one year.” Prasher said that “the attack on civil facilities is nothing but a ploy to privatize these which will make it more expensive and exclude a large number of people from the poor sections in the city”.
The struggle in Shimla is part of the struggle against the larger struggle against the design of privatizing the various civic facilities in the urban areas of our country. In fact, the fancy projects going under the name of ‘smart cities’ have only accelerated this process. It is only through more such protest actions on these immediate local issues that an effective opposition to these attacks can be built.