New Delhi: The war of words between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan continued on Wednesday as the latter questioned the Consumer Affairs Minister regarding the water samples collected from Delhi by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
Paswan on Saturday had released the second phase of the BIS study, which stated that Delhi, along with Kolkata and Chennai, had failed in almost 10 of the 11 quality parameters of drinking water. Kejriwal has questioned the authenticity of the samples, urging the government to recollect them with the help of “neutral” agencies under media presence.
The quality of water supply in Delhi is snowballing into a major issue for the ruling AAP and the opposition BJP and Congress as the Assembly polls in Delhi draws near.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader on Wednesday cited a media report and claimed no samples have been collected from people so far. In the video clip, a person, whose address featured in the list of places from where the BIS collected the water samples, are seen telling the media that there was no issue with the quality of drinking water and no sample was taken from his house.
Tagging Paswan in a tweet, Kejriwal said, "Sir, you say that you took a sample of water from them (citizens quoted in the news report) and that sample failed, while they say that you did not take any sample from them. They also say that they are satisfied with water. You lied so big? Being a Union Minister, such a big fraud with the people?
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanded an apology from Paswan for "defaming" the Delhi government and "publishing fake reports". Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the address from which the BIS water samples were collected turned out to be fake.
AAP MLA from Burari, Sanjeev Jha, alleged that the BIS collected a sample from the house of one Puja Sharma, whose husband Manoj Sharma is the vice-president of Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Reacting to it, Kejriwal said he was saddened to see such "misuse of power to spread fear among the residents of Delhi".
"You have taken a water sample from your own party official's house and spread fear among the residents of Delhi. Such an act does not suit a Union minister," he said in another tweet.
A statement form the Delhi government said, "Various media reports showed that the first complainant, as per the Centre's report, neither complained about water quality nor the BIS collected a sample from his house."
Paswan earlier in the day had asked the Delhi government to coordinate with the BIS team in the recollection of samples and get them tested as per BIS standards.
I have gathered through the newspaper reports that @DelhiJalBoard has constituted 32 teams to collect water samples in Delhi. I hope that as per my letter dated 18th Nov, CM @ArvindKejriwal will coordinate with BIS for collection of samples and get them tested as per BIS standard— Ram Vilas Paswan (@irvpaswan) November 20, 2019
Kejriwal has demanded that Paswan disclose the location from where the samples were collected. He has argued that as per the WHO standards, a sample needs to be collected for every 10,000 people and only then can a study come to a conclusion. In this case, at least 2,000 samples would have been collected, he said.
Kejriwal has also pointed at the contradictory statement of Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekawat, who had said that Delhi's water quality was better than the European standards.
Battle lines have been drawn over the issue of water quality, with the Delhi government on Wednesday nominating Delhi Jal Board (DJB) vice chairman Dinesh Mohaniya and Board member Shalabh Kumar for a joint water sampling and testing along with a team of BIS officers. Paswan, meanwhile, has nominated BIS director general Pramod Kumar Tiwari and deputy director general Jayant Kumar Chaudhary for the water tests.
Alleging that the AAP nominated a “political” person, Paswan urged the Delhi government to nominate a non-political person as part of a joint team for collection of water samples.
"Mohania is a politician, not a technical expert. I have written to the Delhi government that since deputy chairman is a political person, a non-political person may be nominated in his place," Paswan said.
Wading into the war of words between the Centre and the Delhi government over the issue, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan alleged that Kejriwal had been keeping his "eyes closed like Dhritarashtra (a character in the Mahabharata) and not trying to understand the pain of people".
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari wrote a letter to Kejriwal, claiming people were "deeply scared" and "terrified" of drinking the "poisonous" water being supplied in the city.
Countering Kejriwal's allegation that the BIS report was "false and politically motivated", Vardhan said such reputed agencies did not look at the political affiliation of people while collecting samples.
"As a Union health minister, I can say a large number of children are being admitted to hospitals. Most of these children are falling ill due to contaminated water. It shows that Kejriwal did not pay attention to Delhi's water woes and air pollution," he alleged.
Later on Wednesday, Delhi BJP leaders and workers staged a protest near the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) headquarters.
Delhiites are "craving" for drops of pure water and they will not forgive Kejriwal "who has left them at the mercy of god", said BJP national secretary and co-in-charge of party's Delhi affairs Tarun Chugh.
The protesters, including workers of Delhi BJP's Purvanchal Morcha, raised slogans against the Kejriwal government during the demonstration and demanded the chief minister ensure supply of safe drinking water to the people. BJP's Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta said it was unfortunate that Kejriwal was not addressing the serious issue.
(With inputs from PTI)