New Delhi: The war of words over the quality of water in the national capital escalated on Thursday with Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan asking Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to serve tap water at official meetings if he believed the water in Delhi was safe to drink.
Paswan, whose ministry on Saturday released results of sample testing that claimed water in Delhi is not fit for drinking, said Kejriwal should apologise for casting aspersions on the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) that conducted the tests.
The test results have snowballed into a major political row ahead of the Assembly elections in Delhi, with the BJP using them to target the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi and Kejriwal hitting back by questioning the tests, saying sample collection locations either did not exist or belonging to members of rival political group.
"He (Kejriwal) should accept his mistake and apologise to people of the Delhi. If he believes that water in Delhi is safe, then he should make BIS standard mandatory in the national capital," said Paswan.
A consumer can drag the Delhi government to court if water certified as meeting BIS standards is found to be of poor quality.
"I dare him (Kejriwal) to serve tap water in all his official meetings if he believes it is safe," Paswan said, wondering why most people who can afford either use RO to filter tap water or consume bottled water.
Paswan said as the head of Consumer Affairs Ministry, it was his duty to protect consumer interest and so the sample testing was commissioned across the country and not just in Delhi.
"Why is he getting frustrated and impatient?" asked Paswan. "Kejriwal is committing more mistakes to hide one mistake. He is levelling baseless allegations against us and lying. He is doing politics but is charging us with doing politics."
Standing by the results of the sample tests, the Union Minister said Kejriwal thinks that everyone is wrong and only he is right.
"I am a grass-root level leader. I don't finger anyone but when I do I don't leave them easily," he said, adding, "How are we doing politics? My party LJP does not fight elections in Delhi."
Paswan criticised Kejriwal for raising questions about the credibility of the BIS, an autonomous body that has developed around 25,000 quality standards for various products and services.
Paswan said a committee, comprising technical officers from the BIS and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), should be set up immediately to take samples from across 70 constituencies and 140 wards in the national capital by end of this month.
While making it clear that no political person should be part of the panel, he said the water samples should be tested at a government-accredited lab and that the reports should also be made public.
Wondering why Kejriwal has not yet constituted 32 committees as announced by him, Paswan on his part released a list of 32 names of BIS officials for these committees.
On allegations that water sample was also taken from the house of a LJP member in the national capital, Paswan wanted to know whether the clean water would be supplied to only AAP members.
Paswan said the BIS collected 100 litres of water from each of the 11 locations to check the quality of water in the national capital.
Last week, Paswan released the second phase of the BIS study, which stated that Delhi, along with Kolkata and Chennai, failed in almost 10 out of 11 quality parameters for drinking water.
During the first phase, the samples of drinking water were drawn from 11 different locations across Delhi and in the second phase, 10 samples were drawn from 10 locations of 20 state capitals.
Earlier in the day, the AAP demanded the resignation of Paswan for giving out a "false" report saying Delhi's water is the most unsafe among 21 major cities of India. BJP members staged a protest near Kejriwal's residence.
On Wednesday, Kejriwal accused Paswan of spreading lies and misleading people on the issue by citing media reports that suggested irregularities in the process of water sample collection in Delhi.