Protest BMC’s notices over licence violations; 300-400 hotels and some 20,000 restaurants affected
The tanker owners' association held the city to ransom on Tuesday when it stopped around 2,500 tankers from plying for eight hours. It called a strike to protest the 20-30 odd notices sent by the BMC to tanker owners operating without adequate licences.
The strike was called off after a delegation of tanker operators met Industries Minister Subhash Desai. Close to 300-400 hotels and 20,000-odd restaurants were affected by the strike.
Watch Video: Mumbai's Water Tanker Association goes on strike
A tanker owner must possess a licence from the BMC as per Sections 390 (for operating electric pump) and 394 (public health) under the Municipal Corporation Act. Besides, an NOC from the traffic police is required if tankers have to be parked on roads to fill water. Besides, tanker owners have to toe the pest control officers' guidelines to make sure wells don't become mosquito breeding sites and tankers are not filled near schools.
The departments concerned in the BMC had sent tanker owners notices over the last week for various violations. The owners were asked to comply with the rules immediately.
Rajesh Thakur, a tanker owner who part of the delegation that met Desai, said, “Our primary objection is to the NOC from the traffic police. The NOC has a condition that we need Gumasta licences (when setting up shops). But since most of our members do not have a permanent office address, we do not get a Gumasta licence. This NOC should not be made compulsory.”
According to Thakur, a lot of owners do not have the licence under Section 390 as well, for which the BMC has sent them notices. “Desai and other civic officials have now asked us to apply for it and assured us that action will not be taken for at least 15 days. We want them to facilitate things for us. But instead, the BMC is harassing us.”
Thakur said 2,500-2,800 tankers belonging to 120-150 owners did not ply from noon to 8 pm on Tuesday.
The BMC has imposed a 15% water cut in the city, which is already reeling under a water crisis. A number of commercial establishments, stores, malls, construction sites and hotels are largely dependent on water tankers for their daily needs.
Kamlesh Barot, former president of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Western India, estimated 300-400 hotels and about 20,000 restaurants were affected by the strike. Barot, who owns a restaurant, Revival, at Girgaum Chowpatty, said, “We found out on Monday night that tankers were not going to supply water the next morning. Our stocks lasted till the morning. The situation was bad in the evening. We could manage only due to our reserve stocks.”
Barot cautioned that such strikes will also create a dent in the tourism business as foreign tourists staying in hotels take away a poor impression of Mumbai.
A restaurateur from Bandra-Kurla Complex said water from tankers is used in air-conditioning units and toilets in his establishment, whereas BMC water is reserved for drinking purposes alone. “A notice was served to us by the building that not tanker water would be available on Tuesday, which is why we had to shut.”
Capital Social, a popular bar in the same building, said it, too, had to stay shuttered due to water shortage. There was no clarity on whether it would open today. Offices in the building were shut early, too. A Facebook post by gastropub The Good Wife read, “Sorry for the inconvenience. Due to building maintenance, we will be closed this evening.” The pub told mid-day that the maintenance issue was the lack of water supply. Other restaurants such as SodaBottleOpenerWala and Dishkiyaoon were also shut for the day.
Rajan Naringrekar, chief pest control officer, who was present at the meeting with the delegation, said, "It was a routine action against those who do not hold valid licences. It is not in our power to do away with the traffic police NOC. Higher officials have to take that decision. They should apply for licences within 15 days. This is an effort to streamline this business and have a check on tanker operators."