Delhi minister in hospital after hunger strike over release of water to parched India capital

Delhi‘s water minister was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday after her health deteriorated from five days of hunger strike over a water shortage in the Indian capital.

Atishi Singh, a minister belonging to the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party), which governs Delhi, was admitted to the emergency ICU at the Lok Nayak Hospital around 3.30am on Tuesday after her blood sugar level dropped drastically.

She has been on hunger strike since 21 June, demanding that the neighbouring state of Haryana release water from the Yamuna river for Delhi’s 20 million population. The water shortage has also affected the functioning of hospitals with Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital delaying surgeries, reported the Times of India.

The city has been seeing an acute shortage of water amid an unprecedented heatwave this summer that has pushed up consumption as temperatures reached almost 50C. At least 277 people have died from heatstroke in the capital alone.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in the neighbouring state, claimed it had shared sufficient water, and it held AAP responsible for the scarcity.

“Water minister Atishi’s health deteriorates. Her blood sugar level dropped to 43 at midnight and to 36 at 3am, after which LNJP hospital doctors advised immediate hospitalisation,” AAP said in a post on Twitter/X. Usually expected values for normal blood glucose concentration are between 70 mg/dL and 100 mg/dL.

Delhi minister Atishi taken to hospital as her sugar level dips (AAP Delhi/ Twitter)
Delhi minister Atishi taken to hospital as her sugar level dips (AAP Delhi/ Twitter)

“She has not eaten anything for the last five days and is on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the Haryana government to release Delhi’s share of water. She’s been admitted to the emergency ICU at LNJP. We pray for her speedy recovery.”

Sanjay Singh, a parliamentarian from AAP, later told the media that the indefinite strike by the water minister has been called off amid her “deteriorating” health. “Doctors had been asking her to break the strike,” Mr Singh said, adding that they will continue to raise the issue in parliament by mobilising the opposition parties.

According to the water minister, Delhi’s water requirement is 1,005 million gallons per day (MGD), of which 613MGD comes from neighbouring Haryana. However, she said that Haryana has only been sending 513MGD of water.

“1MGD of water can serve 28,500 people, so if Haryana is sending 1000MGD less water to Delhi, this is ultimately affecting around 28 lakh [2. 8 million] people,” she earlier said.

However, Haryana asserts that it is “already supplying canal water more than due to Delhi”, as the ministers blame “internal mismanagement by the AAP government in the capital for the ongoing water crisis”.

Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court ordered the government of Himachal Pradesh to release its surplus water to Delhi. The court has also directed the government of Haryana to facilitate the flow of surplus water released by Himachal Pradesh so that it reaches the national capital.