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A politician in India goes on a hunger strike to demand water from an upstream state

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The word rivalry likely originates from the Latin word for river, because sharing water is hard. In the Indian capital of New Delhi, one politician went on a hunger strike to demand water from an upstream state. Here's NPR's Diaa Hadid.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: The water minister serenely asks, why am I on strike?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ATISHI MARLENA SINGH: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: "I'm on strike because Delhi has a major water shortage." India's capital is home to more than 30 million people, and since mid-April, a heat wave kept temperatures above triple digits for most days until this week. In late May, it even ticked over 121 degrees. The heat came with water shortages, handily summarized by a viral video. It shows slum residents jumping onto a water tanker. They're so desperate for its contents.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SHOUTING)

HADID: The party that governs New Delhi accused the upstream, neighboring state of Hariana of withholding water. By Friday, the water minister, Atishi Marlena Singh, began what she called an indefinite fast, saying shortages had left nearly 3 million residents going without.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SINGH: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: New Delhi is governed by a party led by a man widely seen as a serious challenger to the prime minister, Narendra Modi. Many in the opposition see the water shortages as an attempt to choke the rival party's popularity. But only days after her strike began, the water minister was rushed to hospital. Her doctor told reporters the minister's blood sugar levels were dangerously low.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SURESH KUMAR: Right now she is stable, and she is taking oral fluids also.

HADID: Oral fluids - the strike was over. For opponents of the water minister and her party, this dayslong fast sought to disguise her own administrative failures. But for the poorest of Delhi's residents, perhaps, at least somebody in power experienced something akin to their own hardship.

Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Mumbai.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Diaa Hadid
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.