The Left parties have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking that the Delhi government be made to withdraw a loan application to the World Bank, for restructuring and privatising the Delhi Jal Board.
According to the letter, the Sheila Dikshit government has asked the World Bank to extend a loan of Rs 120 crore (Rs 1.20 billion) annually for six years for the Delhi Water Supply and Sewerage Project, under which 21 DJB zones will be handed over to private companies.
The letter has been signed by Prakash Karat, CPI(M) general secretary, AB Bardhan, CPI general secretary, Debabrata Biswas, All-India Forward Bloc general secretary, and Abani Roy, Revolutionary Socialist Party general secretary.
The Left has also pointed out several problems with the restructuring programme as well as the consultancy document drawn up between the World Bank and the Delhi government. "The conditions enable the World Bank to suggest any modifications to the list of pre-qualified bidders. The government is obliged to make such changes. The consultancy contract decided in November 2001 (awarded to the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers) showed blatant interference by the World Bank," the letter states.
"More pertinently, the experience of implementing such World Bank-dictated privatisation of water supply around the world has seen huge increases in tariffs and deprivation of water for the poorer sections," the letter says.
A detailed note on the project also mentions the "bad experience" with water privatisation that countries such Tanzania, Bolivia and Colombia have had.
According to the Left, the loan amount is paltry considering that the government invests Rs 1,000 crore (Rs billion) of its own money in the DJB, to give World Bank such power over water supply in the Capital. Other parts of the PWC report on unbundling, like putting all capital expenses at the door of the DJB has also been pointed out by the Left leaders.
According to Left leaders, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the working of the DJB, which a good management cannot solve. "Certainly, privatisation is not the only answer," said the letter.The Delhi chief minister is facing heat over the privatisation of the Delhi Vidyut Board and has already thinking afresh on her proposal to table the Delhi Water Management Bill, 2005, in the current monsoon session of the Assembly. With the Left parties jumping into the fray, it is unlikely that Dikshit will have an easy time.