Reeling under severe water crisis, Shimla witnessed midnight protests of angry men and women marching towards Chief Minister’s residence even as the day was also marked by mass dharnas, street sloganeering and lawyers’ resorting to boycott of the courts proceedings.
Several localities of the town remained bereft of the water supply for the eight consecutive day. The residents, including children, spent the day standing in the queue for the water tankers to fill their buckets and empty containers for meeting their basic minimum household needs.
The women, who assembled at Municipal Corporation’s water supply control room around 11 pm on Sunday night, later decided to march towards Chief Minister’s residence around 12 midnight, but were stopped by the police. They created roadside ruckus, and raised slogans against the BJP-led municipal corporation .
What has further triggered the anger was questionable absence of Shimla Mayor Kusum Sadret from the scene as she had left for her China trip in the middle of the water crisis.
Sensing the trouble, CM Jai Ram Thakur took the command in his hand. Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry also took the charge of the Corporation in his hand. He sat through the day at Municipal control room to work-out contingency plans and streaming the distribution network, apart from engaging additional tankers from Solan, Bilaspur and Sirmaur for meeting the shortfall.
In Deputy Commissioner’s office, Chawdhry finalised the steps to plug leakages and ordered DC (Shimla) Amit Kashyap to see that farmers’ drawing water from Gumma supply sources at three places be plugged and NOC’s given to locals to pump water from Giri sources be withdrawn. This will add on to overall water availability.
Earlier in the day, the chief minister reviewed the situation at a high level meeting. He noted an inept handling of the situation by the Corporation and asked Education minister Suresh Bhardwaj—who is the local MLA to go to the Corporation, and pacify the citizens, who were genuinely agitated as they were not getting the water.
He also ordered the setting-up of a high-level committee under Chief Secretary to take the steps at war footing before the situation goes out of the hands.
A high court bench headed by acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol also took suo moto cognizance, after some lawyers made a mention today. The court gave a 24-hour notice to the Municipal Corporation to apprise the court on Tuesday about the water situation since the residence have not received the supplies for the last eight days.
The water scarcity has not only caused serious problems in the government and private hospitals. The hostels of local educational institutions like IGMC medical college, HP University, girls’ colleges and schools were still without water, though they were supplied water through tankers.
Dr Janak Raj, senior medical superintendent of IGMC, however, said: “We are so far managing the situation. Till now, we are ok ok. Can’t say for tomorrow if things does not improve.”
But several hotels have already closed down their bookings and sent WhatsApp messages to the tourists, already booked, to put off their holiday schedules in Shimla. ”There is no water. Please don’t come,” a leading hotelier wrote.