Amid Shimla's water-crisis, 62 ordinary people, the 'key-holders,' become VIPs
Amid Shimla's paralyzing water crisis, there are 62 ordinary people, unknown faces till a few days ago, who have unexpectedly become the center of attention. With four police-guards, two laborers at his command, and an engineer monitoring his work, 55-year-old Hari Ram, a keyman, says he has never felt so important. All this, because one of his peers came under attack some days ago.
Shimla has been suffering since weeks
Shimla has been dealing with a massive water crisis for over two weeks. People are having to line up for hours to receive water, which has been strictly rationed. Locals and officials have blamed a series of factors for the situation: leaking pipes, diversion for irrigation, and failure to lift water from rivers are some. Naturally, residents, deprived of a basic need, are furious.
Allegations of unfair favoritism irk locals
Locals' outrage was intensified when rumors emerged that VVIP areas and high-end hotels, favored by the municipal corporation, aren't being affected by the scarcity. Many also alleged the government had done nothing, though they had warned the authorities about an upcoming shortage a month ago.
In the melee, keymen and engineers came under attack
Violence erupted when frustrated residents in some areas including Chotta Shimla and Sanjauli attacked keymen and engineers and tried to hold them hostage. Keymen are responsible for turning on the valves controlling the water-supply network. "In plains, water can be supplied from one feeder, but in hilly areas, every locality requires a system where supplies can be manually opened and shut depending on gravity," explains Ram.
'Keymen have to undertake duties honestly': Court orders security
After the violence, the HC, which has been holding daily hearings on the crisis, ordered security for all keymen. "(The keyman) is the first and the last person between the water available for distribution and the consumer," the court observed. "If a keyman abuses his position, the results can be disastrous," it added. The court is "101% right," Ram says.
Shimla residents hope for an early solution to the crisis
Ram's days now begin around 5:30am, when, accompanied by guards, he opens valves under his command. Fielding calls by residents and holding several tools, he then goes house-to-house, addressing complaints. "The situation is much better than earlier," he says. "Hopefully, it will improve in the next few days." But experts believe the opposite: scenes from Shimla might soon become rampant across India, they warn.