Water price hike: 'a passing phase'?

The price of water has gone up by at least five times in Mysore, which is a stone’s throw away from the Krishna Raja Sagara dam. Those who were paying Rs. 75 per month are now required to pay anywhere from Rs. 400 to Rs. 500.

Jus' a few months ago, a Co called JUSCO completed installation of their pipes and meters in addition to the existing ones, promising 24x7 water and better customer service. Residents had to pay anywhere form Rs. 500 to Rs. 2000 to install T-sections, complete the piping from the curb to the water meter, and patch up the masonry. I've always wondered why Mysore, home to Sir M.Visvesvaraya, one of the greatest civil engineers and water management gurus in the history of mankind, had to knock on the doors of a Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company Ltd for distributing its own water. Why didn't a MUSCO do this?  Would it have been too good for the consumer, or for the employees?

Anyway.

Today, there is neither the 24x7 water (it's more like 3x5), nor the better customer service. But there’s a five times hike in the water bill. The quality of water has reduced considerably in the last twenty years. We used to drink directly from the tap twenty years ago, but today we’re forced to buy water filters or UV or RO machines or risk health problems – and these machines need maintenance to the tune of Rs. 3000 – 4000 per year, plus the electricity charge and the area they occupy in the kitchen.

Coming back to the issue at hand, corporators of the Mysore City Corporation, upon receiving complaints from a handful people like me are asking people to not pay the water bill, but are shying away from making public statements to the same effect. MLA and Mysore district in-charge, Mr. S. A. Ramdas has issued a statement that the price hike will be withheld. But nothing has happened on the ground, as we just received the water bill with the increased rate. When I contacted the MCC (Mysore City Corporation) public relations officer, Ms. M. V. Sudha (Mob: 9449859915), she explained that the MCC is basically out of funds, hinting that revenue from water is inevitable. Mr. K. S. Raykar, Commissioner, MCC, didn’t pick up the phone.

If what Ms. M. V. Sudha says is right – that the MCC is starved of funds –, and I have strong reasons to believe that she is, then everything falls in place. The MCC is starved of funds because it is not allowed to make revenue to even sustain itself, because of the lopsided ‘democracy’ in which we live, where the concentration of power increases with distance from the people: New Delhi wields more power than Bangalore which, in turn, wields more power than Mysore, over Mysoreans! Is this democracy?

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Barely ninety nine years ago, in 1913, right here in Mysore, His Highness Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar Bahadur concluded a Treaty with Viceroy Hardinge. According to the treaty, which clarified the relationship between the State of Mysore and the Government of India, the Maharaja obtained full powers of internal administration, subject only to the general supremacy and paramountcy of the British government - something his father, His Highness Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur did not enjoy.

But in less than thirty four years, amidst the waving of flags in New Delhi and elsewhere, and the bursting of crackers and some meaningless riots near Lahore and Calcutta, His Highness Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur lost all the power his uncle had obtained in the treaty with Hardinge. It appears that he became worse than the corporator I called today, in terms of the power he came to hold. Of course, some money was soon thrown in into his kitty, going under the name of privy purse, in return for agreeing to a slight change of job description: king to pawn.

Sir M. Visvesvaraya. saw with his own eyes how the Maharaja of Mysore was relieved of nearly all his powers by the Government of India (the free one, the Indian one) which consequently reduced the autonomy and powers of internal administration of the State of Mysore. What was the State of Mysore has today literally transformed into a municipal corporation, and this municipal corporation is not even the ‘glorified municipal corporation’ that Ms. J. Jayalalithaa recently talked about when she accused the Central government of undermining federalism. That glory goes to the Government of Karnataka, not to the municipal corporation of Mysore.

Wrote Sir M. V., expressing hope that things would change and decentralization would happen as the passing phase passed:
The States are now, for all political purposes, closely integrated with the Centre and though they are units of the Federation, they occupy, in actual working, a lower subordinate position than what they held under the British administration. It is hoped that this is only a passing phase in the evolution of the new democracy. (Sir. M. Visveswaraya, Memoirs of My Working Life, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1960, p. 58)
Clearly, Sir M. V. had hoped for too much. The ‘phase’ has neither passed, nor shows any signs of passing. New Delhi continues to be the new Paramount Power in India – with a paramountcy surpassing that of the British.

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In the meanwhile, the greatest minds of Mysore – Engineers, Doctors, CAs, MBAs, etc., have all gone away, or have all turned away, while their aged parents are waiting for money orders to pay the increased water bill with.

Come, let us change things.

If you are in Mysore, are living, and have access to email, write to me at kiran at banavasibalaga dot org. Mysore needs you. I’m sorry, you need Mysore. And we all need water at the price we used to pay last month.

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Update 25 May 2012: Many thanks to @maisuru to pointing out some factual errors in the history portion of this article, mirrored on Churumuri. Though I couldn't change the version on Churumuri, this version here on Karnatique has been updated.