Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is set to take over the water department from Rajendra Pal Gautam, who was allegedly being “bypassed” by top Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials in decision making. Kejriwal met Gautam at his residence yesterday and conveyed the decision to him. This will be Kejriwal’s first ministerial portfolio since taking over as CM in February 2015.
Gautam, who had taken over the water department barely three months ago, told PTI that top officials including the DJB CEO were not letting him work and keeping him in the dark in matters of importance. “Taking advantage of the fact that services is with the Centre, the officials were not keeping me in the loop and taking decisions unilaterally. The CM must have taken note of this and decided to take it over himself,” Gautam said.
The decision also comes following a series of deaths in the city while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. The sewer network in the national capital comes under the DJB. However, senior DJB officials, on condition of anonymity, alleged that Gautam wanted the transfer order of a section engineer (SE), whose role in the Lajpat Nagar sewer deaths case is under the scanner, to be reversed.
“The minister initially wanted the engineer to be transferred. Then for some unknown reason he wanted the order to be reversed. The DJB CEO refused to do so as the person is alleged to have forged documents related to the Lajpat Nagar deaths. And the decision to remove him as minister came soon after,” an official said.
The decision was conveyed to Gautam on Saturday but it was on the cards for some time. Informally briefing some reporters about the same, a government spokesperson said it will help Kejriwal personally monitor issues related to water and sewerage which are “priority areas” of the AAP government. Gautam will continue to hold the portfolios of SC & ST, Social Welfare , Cooperative and Gurudwara Elections.