Blame and excuses have always been a part of politics. And the new entrant in this game is COVID-19. Politicians are smartly shifting the blame on it. The incomplete water supply project in Guwahati is one of them. The decades old potable water crisis in the city on the bank of the mighty Brahmaputra is here to stay for maybe another five years.
This was told to InsideNE by none other than the Guwahati development department minister and Guwahati East legislator Siddhartha Bhattacharya. “The outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 paralysed all development work and the water supply project remained incomplete. I would have been happy if the city water supply project could have been completed during my tenure,” said Bhattacharya.
After various delays for years together, the Asian Development Bank-funded Rs 1105.81 crore project was supposed to be completed by December 2017, but remained incomplete even today, and the government has nothing to blame today but COVID-19 in 2020. The incumbent government even terminated a contractor engaged by the previous government to give impetus to the project, but work remained stagnant ever since.
The minister’s political rival of 2016 elections, Bobeeta Sharma of the Congress, whom he defeated by over 96,000 votes, has rightly pointed out, saying: “It is a pity that people of the city that stands on the bank of the Brahmaputra still have to buy potable water from private water supply tanks. The deadline for completion of the water supply project was supposed to be completed in 2017. However, it continued to be an election manifesto agenda even today.”
Sharma also pointed out the dark streets and clogged drains of the city. “There are still so many roads and streets which do not have street lights making them absolutely unsafe for women after dusk. We promised to install lights which the BJP had also promised, but did not fulfill,” she said.
“The city received much funds under the smart city scheme. However, very little development is visible. The drains are still clogged, roads are bumpy and full of potholes, civic amenities still have much room for improvement et al,” Sharma added.
Bhattacharya, however, claims he has delivered on all other fronts and was hopeful of another term in office to complete the incomplete water supply project.
The voters, on the other hand, have different tales to tell. Few excerpts (Names changed):
Pratima Das (42years, self employed, South Sarania): I won’t say he did not do anything. He did some work for the people of the constituency. Roads and drains have been improved. He took good care of needy people during lockdown. Yes, of course, there would be things which could have been done better. But, he is also a human being.
Naren Boro (53, self employed, Kachari Basti): I don’t even want to hear his name. He is not our representative. He never bothered to consider us as people of his constituency. Can you see the plight of our locality?
Swapna Talukdar (47, professional, Chenikuthi): He did as well as he did not do anything over the past five years. He got some work done because it was he duty-bound to do them.
Asked about the emergence of chief minister’s political adviser Santanu Bharali as ticket aspirant from the constituency, the former BJP state president said: “I was taught in my childhood not to listen to rumours. I believe, I have delivered and the party will definitely consider my candidature.”
“Santanu Bharali is undoubtedly the No 1 name for the ticket. I live in Chandmari and I know everybody is in favour of Bharali,” said Diganta Barman, a BJP worker.