Tanker runs over woman amid water protests in Shimla

Hundreds of residents block road leading to state secretariat in Kusumpti, raising slogans against the government and Shimla Municipal Corporation

Shimla: Protests continued to rock the Himachal Pradesh capital on Saturday, as the densely populated Kusumpti area reeled under acute portable water shortage for the straight 14th day.

A water tanker driver deployed by the civic body suffered an epilepsy attack and ran over a 65-year-old woman on the busy Mall Road, who was rushed to the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital here where she was declared dead.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Praveer Thakur confirmed that the tanker driver had an epilepsy attack, lost control of the vehicle and struck the woman, Uma Keprate.

Hundreds of residents blocked the road leading to the state secretariat in Kusumpti, raising slogans against the government and the Shimla Municipal Corporation, both ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Despite instructions by the High Court on supplying water in the city on a rotational basis, there is no water supply in this locality.

“The piped water has not been supplied for the past eight days. Three days ago I got just three buckets of water for a family of five from a government tanker,” housewife Sanjana Jindal told journalists.

Residents were out on the streets protesting even late on Friday.

“We are depending on bottled water for cooking and drinking. There is no water to clean utensils and wash clothes. I have not taken bath for almost a week now.

“Our toilets are stinking literally as we are refraining from flushing them. We just managed to collect two buckets of water from rooftop when it rained in Shimla on Friday evening,” college-goer Nandita Chauhan said.

“We are prepared to live with very little water but we need that little water to sustain our daily chores and personal hygiene,” she said, adding: “I think the government should promote dry toilets in Shimla in order to save millions of litres of water.”

The problem of water shortage persisted in Pantha Ghatti, Chhota Shimla, Vikasnagar, Kangnadhar, New Shimla and Khalini localities.

A government statement said the civic body received 24.50 million litres per day water on Friday and it was distributed as per the timetable. It said 170,000 litres of water was supplied to different localities through tankers.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Saturday rushed to New Delhi to brief the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on steps taken to restore water normality in Shimla.

“The PMO sought information and that is a routine one about the prevailing water crisis in Shimla. We have provided the information earlier also. Today, I have given the status report personally,” Thakur told reporters in New Delhi.

Blaming the previous Congress government in the state, he said the Congress deliberately ignored the gravity of the water problem for five years.

“For the past 15 days, I am monitoring the water situation of Shimla on a daily basis and also through video conferencing if I am out of Shimla. We have improved the water supply but it still needs to be strengthened,” he said, admitting that the water shortage this summer was worst in 10 years.

Officials blamed water shortage on the rising mercury and the drying up of natural water channels. Shimla has a population of nearly 200,000 that requires 42 MLD water.

Facing flak from the high court, which is monitoring the water situation on a day-to-day basis, the Municipal Corporation has disconnected the water connections of over 40 hotels for their failure to clear the pending arrears.

Issuing a slew of directives on Friday, it said all 62 keymen, who are responsible for supplying water in localities, should be kept under surveillance to ensure equitable distribution.

The court has listed the case for next hearing on June 11. It has also made it categorically clear that no individual request even to the VIPs, including the judges, would be entertained.


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