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Pani panchayat or a recipe for chaos?

It SEEMS former L-G Tejinder Khanna's 'Traffic Warden' scheme was not enough! The Delhi Jal Board, conveniently forgetting the futility of the 'warden' schemes of the past, is all set to start a 'Water Warden' project in the Capital.

In its latest attempt to 'water down' the sufferings of the summer months, the Delhi Jal Board has invited "socially-conscious residents" to complain against their neighbours if they see them misusing or wasting, water.

"Any person can sign up on a totally voluntary basis. He then will be expected to lodge complaints against people in his locality who are wasting water. The DJB engineers would visit the spot and take appropriate action. The best warden in the Capital would then be honoured with the "Water Saviour" Award," informed DJB Chief Executive Officer Mr PK Tripathi.

Such a scheme, senior officials feel, was necessary. "It is in the hands of the residents to save water, and there is very little the DJB can do about it. If there is ten per cent saving of water this summer, Delhi would be rid of its water problems," said Mr Tripathi.

Perhaps indicating that the socalled "Water Wardens' would also check how many times a day their neighbours take a bath, the CEO quipped, "Ab hamare desh mein nahane ki pratha bhi to hai," he quipped. This is not the first time such a 'citizen-centric' scheme has been adopted in the Capital. In 1997 Mr Tejinder Khanna had launched the "Traffic Warden' scheme in which "senior citizens" of' the Capital were chosen as wardens and were expected to educate people about traffic laws. To make these wardens stand out from all and sundry, special dresses were designed by noted fashion designer Ritu Beri.

The scheme, despite the hoopla around it, flopped miserably and in no time these traffic wardens became a law unto them-selves, putting huge stickers on their cars and merrily jumping red-lights. Their overzealousness in 'controlling' traffic led to the scheme's early demise. The DJB admitted there is very little it can do about the water scarcity in the Capital, "Delhi population goes up by more than five lakh people annually. The sources of water are limited, so can we give 24-hour water connections to all?" asked Mr Tripathi.

With the 'Water Saviour' carrot in sight, the DJB expects many people to be a part of this venture. "We will soon come out with advertisements to this effect," Mr Tripathi said. Common people, however, have not been very enthusiastic about the proposed scheme. Most people think this venture will lead to petty fights in the neighbourhood, more than anything else. "We are a family of eight. How can anyone else decide how much water I am using or wasting?" said Ms Anuradha Sharma, a resident of Vasant Vihar. She also wanted to know if the 'Water Warden' would pay a compensation if his claims were found to be wrong. So before you misuse or waste that elusive drop, beware... a 'Water Warden' may be watching you.

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