Upping its ante against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday accused it of creating an ‘atmosphere of fear’ in Delhi about the quality of piped water to benefit companies providing reverse osmosis (RO) systems.
The party demanded an independent enquiry into the matter and Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s resignation on ‘moral grounds’. Paswan denied the allegations.
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha questioned the timing of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) report on water quality in 20 cities and listed seven ‘coincidences’ to indicate an alleged ‘nexus between RO companies and the BJP-Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)’.
Does there exist a nexus between the RO companies and the BJP-LJP since these parties seem to be working for the benefit of these RO companies?’ he asked Paswan.
Rejecting the claims, Paswan said, ‘There should not be any politics over this. Safe drinking water is an important determinant of national health outcomes, especially of the poor who cannot afford water purifying devices such as reverse-osmosis purifiers or any other technology.’
The AAP said the BIS report was released just a week before the Supreme Court hearing, on Friday, on a plea by RO companies challenging the National Green Tribunal’s partial ban on the use of RO systems.
In Friday’s hearing, Chadha alleged, the lawyer of the RO companies cited the BIS report to urge the court to lift the ban. The counsel for Water Quality India Association, a non-profit Trade Association, CU Singh, refused to comment on this allegation.
‘The central government tried to create an atmosphere of fear in Delhi over the issue of water in order to help RO companies. The RO companies are upset their business will get hurt but why is the Centre trying to safeguard them?’ Chadha said at a press conference.
Other AAP leaders, including Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh and Delhi Jal Board vice-chairman Dinesh Mohaniya, who is also an MLA, reiterated the allegation.
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to interfere with the NGT ban on the use of RO water purifiers where the level total dissolved solids (TDS) is less than 500 milligram/ litre. The court, however, asked the Centre to consider the representations of RO manufacturers before issuing any notification pursuant to the NGT order.
Chadha said the BJP had created an ‘atmosphere of fear about the quality of Delhi’ and asked Paswan to answer if he got the report prepared to ‘influence the SC hearing’.
Paswan roped in BIS, which has ‘never done any such audit on water quality in its history of existence’, to do the water quality testing, he said. Hinting at a nexus between the Centre and the RO companies, Chadha alleged all members of the Water Purification Sub-Committee, which handles water-related issues for BIS, are from RO companies.
On water purifying companies being a part of a BIS panel, an official, requesting anonymity, said it was routine and part of the protocol to have industry representations from a sector in which standards were formulated.
The AAP asked the Union minister to state his ‘relationship with RO companies’ and clarify if he asked his party workers to collect the samples. ‘Looking at the series of coincidences or circumstantial evidence. on behalf of AAP, I demand an independent inquiry into the matter, pending which an immediate resignation of Mr. Paswan on moral grounds,’ Chadha said.
The BIS report has sparked off a political storm in the national capital months before the assembly elections.
Responding to the allegations, BJP MP in Rajya Sabha Vijay Goel and former Delhi BJP chief, said. ‘The most important issue this time is the quality of water. Ram Vilas Paswan has given an open challenge to Kejriwal and offered to jointly test the water quality. But he (Kejriwal) is running away from it. By raising these baseless issues, AAP is trying to deflect public attention. The people are forced to drink dirty water due to the inefficiency of the Kejriwal government.’