Kerala opposition sees red in new drinking water company

Thiruvananthapuram, June 12 (IANS) The Kerala assembly Wednesday witnessed angry scenes as the Left opposition was up in arms against the proposal to form a new company to supply supplying drinking water, in which the state would have 26 percent stakes.

Angry opposition members shouted slogans against the Congress government after state Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph tried his best to convince members that the company was being formed in public interest, to bring down the cost of drinking water, which is currently in the hands of private companies that distribute water in bottles and cans.

“This will sound the death knell for state-owned Kerala Water Authority (KWA), which presently distributes drinking water to households. This new company is nothing but a short-cut to facilitate some people to make a killing, and also finish off the KWA,” Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, deputy leader of the CPI-M in the assembly, said.

“The new company would source water from lakes and quarries where water is stored and not a single water source of the KWA would be used. The objective of this company is to bring down the price of drinking water and nothing else,” argued Joseph.

The proposed firm would be called Kerala Drinking Water Supply Co.. Its objective is to give clean drinking water to the people in water tankers in the state at a time when private firms supplying water often fleece the public, Joseph explained.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s government proposed to form the company on the lines of the hugely successful private-public funded airport at Kochi, the first such airport in the country.

The Kerala Water Authority will have 23 percent stakes in the drinking water company proposed, with the rest to be given to local bodies, residents’ associations, companies and individuals.

The company would be headed by the State Water Resources Minister, with top secretaries of the government from various departments besides representatives of other stake holders forming the board of directors.

Joseph pleaded with members of the opposition that the state government has no ulterior motive in making such a proposal. His pleas, however, fell on deaf ears and the Left opposition continued to demand that government not proceed to form the new company.

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