New Delhi, April 16: Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena has written an open letter to jailed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, alleging that his water minister "used" the death of a woman in a fight over fetching water for "narrow political goals". AAP leader Atishi termed the missive "unfortunate". The L-G alleged that the government has created a "chimera of free water" and the woman's death highlights its "failure". Water Minister Atishi hit back, saying all initiatives and actions of the Delhi Jal Board were "brought to a standstill through what seems to be a conspiracy that stopped the release of funds to the DJB".

The Delhi water minister had on Sunday written to the L-G, asking him to suspend the CEO of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) after a woman was killed following a quarrel with her neighbour over fetching water from a common tap in the Farsh Bazar area of northeast Delhi. Two days after the communication, Saxena penned a strongly worded open letter to Kejriwal, currently lodged in Tihar jail after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case linked to the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy scam case. Woman Stabbed to Death Over Water Dispute: AAP Minister Atishi Writes to LG VK Saxena Over ‘Water Crisis’, Seeks Removal of Delhi Jal Board CEO Citing Woman’s Death During Scuffle

"I was deeply distressed at the insensitive communication from the Minister for Water... Atishi on Sunday. While I was yet to receive the letter, it characteristically found its way on various social and mainstream media platforms, the moment it was signed. She has chosen to use the unfortunate death of a woman in East Delhi for narrow and partisan political goals," he charged. Having underlined the inadequate supply of water as the cause behind the incident, Atishi has ironically indicted her own government of more than nine years, the L-G said.

"Her note indeed is a prima facie admission of guilt, inaction and inefficiency over the past almost 10 years," he said in the letter. Asserting that this "unfortunate incident (woman's death) is not the only such case of its kind in the context of Delhi", he said many such incidents over water scarcity have happened in the past primarily due to the failure of the government. "Such instances have become a recurrent phenomenon year after year and have been widely reported in media over the last 10 years... Water woes in the capital, especially in settlements where the poor live, have exacerbated over the last decade.

"Your minister's hasty missive to me is an admission of these failures and defaults of performance of your government and amount to facile attempts at shrugging responsibility off, a complex problem," he added. Saxena cited official figures to highlight his points. He cited The Economic Survey 2023-24, tabled in the recent Budget Session of the Delhi Assembly. "Over the last decade, water treatment capacity grew marginally from 906 MGD to 946 MGD, barely a 4.4 per cent increase. During the same period, the population of the city has grown significantly by 15 per cent. Water Crisis in Telangana: CM Revanth Reddy To Approach Karnataka, Seek Release of Water From Narayanpur Dam Across Krishna River

"The overall shortfall in water supply amounts to about 290 MGD. Of the total water being supplied, 120 MGD comes from groundwater extraction, which is also a gross exaggeration. I am sure that you are aware that of the 16 Ranney wells, five are non-functional. Similarly, a large number of tubewells are also dysfunctional," he added. The percentage of "unaccounted for water" -- a sum of water leakages by way of transmission and distribution losses, water theft and non-payment of dues -- saw a sharp increase from 45 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2022-2023, the L-G said.

"By implication, in 2015, of the 906 MGD of water treated, only 498 MGD was accounted for. In 2022-23, of the 946 MGD treated, barely 397 MGD is accounted for. Accordingly, over the last decade, net water availability has decreased by more than 100 MGD due to the criminal neglect by your Government," Saxena added. He said that of the about 2.5 crore people in the city, more than two crore are deprived of drinking water supply in varying degrees, especially in unauthorised colonies, slum clusters and to a lesser extent, even in organized developed colonies.

"It simply points to the fact that there has been no effort whatsoever during the last 10 years for plugging the leaks and we seem to be spending thousands of crores in pumping water into a leaking bucket," the L-G said. Saxena said the finance department has released Rs 28,400 crore to DJB since 2015. The accumulated loan and interest liability of DJB stands at a staggering Rs 73,000 crore, he said. "Instead of fixing the iniquitous water supply, you and your ministers created a chimera of free water," he said. In response, Atishi said she received it through mediapersons.

"I must express my disappointment at this unfortunate missive from the Hon'ble L-G, which has come to the fore as a beratement for the elected government only in response to me beseeching you to suspend an officer who has repeatedly refused and failed to carry out his duties, which, if he had undertaken in a timely manner, would have averted the crisis Delhi faces this summer." She said for months, Delhi ministers have been seeking Saxena's intervention in matters where "elementary governance functions have been brought to a standstill due to acts and omissions of the officers of the GNCTD". Atishi accused Saxena of maintaining "stoic silence and complete apathy towards the water woes of people of Delhi".

"But when the actual culprit of this criminal negligence and misfeasance was brought before you, you decided to speak in his defence which the whole of Delhi knows is legally and morally indefensible," she charged. The minister said the L-G's letter "may be intended for optics" but it cannot be denied that the water crisis has been artificially created. She cited instructions issued and claimed things could not taken off due to "a conspiracy that stopped release of funds to the DJB". She alleged that in the current administrative setup, "there is a disconnect between responsibility and authority".