Expressing grave concern over the water shortages triggered across hundreds of Punjab’s villages following the disconnection of power supply to waterworks, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh has demanded stringent action against the panchayat members and nagar council presidents for defaulting on electricity bill payments.
In a statement issued here on Saturday, Captain Amarinder said the people of the 650-odd villages where waterworks power had been disconnected could not be made to suffer for the criminal negligence of the panchayat and nagar council leaders. He demanded immediate restoration of power supply to the waterworks, saying the people had the right to safe drinking water under the Constitutional Right to Life, which they could not be deprived of.
Promising stern action against the panchayat and nagar council leaders once the Congress assumes the reins of power in the state, Amarinder said the situation arising out of non-payment of bills was yet another example of the Badal government’s mis-governance of the state. While the PSPCL was well within its rights to take the necessary steps to secure payment against outstanding bills it could not be allowed to unduly harass innocent villagers, he added.
Even as he lashed out at the authorities for their sheer mismanagement in handling the situation over the years, Captain pointed out that with ground water in many of the affected areas, such as Mansa and Muktsar, unfit for human consumption, things could get out of hand if the water supply to the people is not immediately restored. Access to safe drinking water was enshrined in the Right to Life under the Indian Constitution and was thus an inviolable right, said Captain Amarinder, adding that the people could not be divested of this essential commodity under any circumstances.
The Congress chief ministerial candidate warned of the situation coming to a boil if the people suffering as a result of the PSPCL crackdown continue to remain deprived of water for long. Coming on the heels of the SYL controversy, this development could lead to major escalation of water tensions in Punjab, warned Capt. Amarinder, stressing the need for an alternative solution to the problem of pending electricity dues by the villages.
Reiterating that water scarcity, which had been the root cause of terrorism in Punjab earlier, could once again spark violence, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president said resolution of the issue would be a priority for his government once the Congress comes to power. A comprehensive policy to alleviate the water woes of Punjab’s people would be formulated to find a permanent solution to the problem, he promised, adding that all possible steps would be taken to streamline the PSPCL pending payments. Those found guilty of diverting the money meant for payment of power bills would be brought to book, he added.
A legal solution would also be found to the SYL imbroglio, promised Captain Amarinder, vowing to ensure that the people of Punjab are not deprived of the much-needed water. Given the shortage of water in the state, and the potential threat of violence resulting from the same, it was imperative to resolve the water crisis on immediate basis, he asserted, adding that this would be an issue to be tackled on priority by his government.