Thiruvananthapuram: What can arguably be called a slip of the tongue has resulted in the social media branding of water resources minister Roshy Augustine as not just insensitive but highly restrictive.
On Tuesday, while responding to an adjournment motion on a water tariff hike in the Assembly, the minister asked whether a five-member family would require more than 100 litres of water a day.
It was this cap of 100 litres a day for a five-member family that had enraged netizens.
The minister quickly came out with a clarification saying that the average daily consumption of 100 litres was for an individual and not for an entire family of five. For a five-member family, he said the average daily water consumption in Kerala was 500 litres, 100 litres per individual.
In other words, a full 500-litre roof-top water tank was sufficient to satisfy the water needs of a family of five.
The minister's mention of 100 litres per family in the Assembly on Tuesday was probably a careless error as the minister also stated in the same speech that a five-member family on average required just 15,000 litres a month. This figure of 15,000 litres could be arrived at only from the assumption that a five-member family consumed 500 litres a day, 100 litres per individual.
In his clarification issued after the Assembly proceedings were over, he once again underscored the average daily water consumption figures. He said official figures say it is 500 litres a day for a five-member family.
However, in an obvious hint that per capita consumption was high in Kerala, he said the national average is 55 litres per individual a day. He also made it clear both in the Assembly, and in his clarification, that Kerala should be more rational in its water consumption.
The clarification, however, has not settled the matter. Still, one cannot be certain that the minister had made only an unforced error. It was the figures Augustine trotted out a day earlier, on February 6, that sustains the confusion.
On February 6, during Question Hour, he gave slightly varying numbers. "How many litres of water would an individual require a day," he asked. 100 litres, he said. "What if it is a family of four members," he asked. The quantity he gave was odd: 125 litres.
Though only 125 litres are required, the minister said the KWA offers 500 litres free daily. The minister was clearly suggesting that a generous KWA, without collecting even a single paise, was providing a family considerably more water than is ordinarily required. "Monthly, we provide 15,000 litres of water free," he added.
It is not clear from where he secured the figure of 125 litres a day. More significantly, he did not mention that only BPL card holders get free water up to 15,000 litres.
Confusing matters further, the minister even exhorted families consuming 20,000 and 30,000 litres a month to bring down their consumption so that they too could enjoy free water.
The fact is, even if an APL cardholder brings down her monthly consumption to 10,000 litres, she is not entitled to free water.
The minister's clarification, issued late on February 7, is clear about this. "BPL families will get free water up to 15,000 litres. This is what I was trying to express in the Assembly," Roshy Augustine said.