While thousands of Mumbaikars, including residents of the posh Churchgate area, have been receiving murky BMC water recently, corporators have been promising better days to the people.
However, MiD DAY has found that BMC leaders themselves have no confidence in the civic body-supplied water — they have been drinking packaged drinking water at standing committee meetings for the past couple of months.
The corporation began serving bottled water at the standing committee meetings in mid-September. The new trend has not only attracted attention of BMC members, but also NGOs. It has been reported that the change came following
a demand made by a Samajwadi Party corporator.
Dilip Lande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader and standing committee member, said, “When it came to light that many areas in the city were getting contaminated water, committee members started drinking bottled water. Such an act sends a wrong message to public, who are forced to drink impure water. This is nothing but a sheer waste of public money, and should be condemned.”
Another standing committee member and a Shiv Sena leader, who did not wish to be named, said, “To maintain a healthy image, we have to try and enhance the quality of water rather than go for bottled water. Otherwise, people’s goodwill towards our party may take a hit.”
Acknowledging Lande’s indignation, member of F-north citizen federation G R Vora said, “It clearly indicates that our corporators don’t trust the BMC-supplied tap water. They have no right to spend taxpayers’ money on packaged water. They should be drinking what we are drinking.”
“If the standing committee, which plays an important role in BMC’s functioning, has a budget of over Rs 26,000 crore and clears major water projects, starts consuming bottled water, how can common people rely on the water being provided by the civic body?” asked an NGO worker, who wished to remain anonymous.
Nitai Mehta, trustee of Praja Foundation, said this is symbolic of the rot in the system. “I think they (corporators) must have realised that BMC is not providing clean water and have started using packaged water,” said Mehta.
He added that members of standing committee should try to improve the quality of water. “Corporators are attempting to evade the fundamental problem of dirty water. They are scared of diarrhoea and other ailments and are thinking about themselves,” he said.
“Yes, I have asked for a bottle of water to be kept for me at the meeting table, but I never demanded packaged water. I am happy with the water supplied by BMC,” said Rais Shaikh, a Samajwadi Party corporator.
Narayan Pathade, municipal secretary, said he didn’t know why bottled water was being served to corporators. “I am not aware of the reason. I took charge as head of the department only on October 1,” he told MiD DAY.
Sources from BMC said the municipal secretary’s department serves around 30 bottles, priced at Rs 10 each (for 500 ml), to all 27 members of standing committee and three senior officials who attend the meetings.
Standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale, however, refuted the MNS allegation about the fear factor, and said, “It is not a case of panic about contamination. There have been two incidents of glasses keeling over on the desk and documents getting wet. So we have decided to have bottles instead. We have no problems with drinking BMC water.”