Terming as 'serious issue', the drought-like situation in Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday said it needs to look into it while hearing a PIL against use of water for the purpose of maintaining pitches prior to the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament.
Besides, another similar PIL, filed in the high court today by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, sought a direction to the IPL Commissioner to pay tax on water, as about 60,000 litres per day would be required to maintain the pitches.
A division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade was hearing the PIL filed by NGO 'Loksatta Movement' challenging the use of nearly 60 lakh litres of water to maintain pitches at three stadiums in the state which will hold IPL matches.
"This is a serious issue and we need to look into it," the high court said and posted the PIL for hearing tomorrow. According to the petition, the state is reeling under a drought and acute water shortage as levels in dams and lakes have gone down.
"There is already a scarcity of drinking water and water for sanitation purposes and the state authorities are turning a blind eye," the petition said.
It said that under the Maharashtra State Water policy, the government has prioritised use of water, and usage of water for recreation and other purposes comes last in the priority list.
The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) today told the high court that tickets for the IPL matches have been already sold and huge loss would be caused if they are cancelled.
The court, while posting the PIL for hearing tomorrow, sought responses from all other respondents, including the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Vidarbha Cricket Association, Maharashtra government and the civic bodies of Mumbai and Nagpur.
Meanwhile, Tirodkar in his petition sought a direction to IPL Commissioner to pay tax on water, as about 60,000 litres per day would be required to maintain pitches.
He sought an undertaking from state government that it would supply 1,000 litres of water per day to each family of drought-hit districts till the time rains fill up the need.
"The IPL Commissioner should be asked to pay tax of Rs 1,000 per litre for meeting expenses of supplying water to the drought-affected district," said the PIL, which is expected to come up for hearing soon.
The IPL tournament is set to begin from April 9 with the first match to be played in Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium. A total of 20 matches will be played in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.
The finals of the tournament scheduled on May 29 will also be held at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Maharashtra is facing acute shortage of water for the past two decades, right from Mumbai to Vidarbha and Marathwada and the gravity of the situation can be seen by 3,228 farmers' suicides across the state in 2015, Tirodkar's PIL said.
The high court has already taken suo-motu cognisance of the drought situation leading to suicides by farmers across the state, the petitioner said.
"It is in the backdrop of this scenario that one fails to see a welfare state holding IPL cricket league matches in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune and elsewhere in the state," the petition submitted.
The pitch maintenance in these stadiums will consume 60,000 litres of water every day, said the PIL. Quoting statistics from the records available with the authorities, the petition said that in 2013, about 65 lakh litres water had been used at three stadiums for IPL matches -- Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, D Y Patil in Navi Mumbai and the Sahara stadium in Pune. The same scenario is going to repeat this year also, the PIL said.
Tirodkar further said that the Maharashtra government has decided to supply 50 wagons containing 55,000 litres water each to Latur district, which amounts to approximately 30 lakh litres. Due to drought situation, every house is currently getting 20 litres of water per day, the PIL said.
Pune, the cultural capital of the state, is also not spared from the water crunch. Remote areas in the state are witnessing Ethiopia¿type situation. Malnutrition has been claiming thousands of lives in the state every year and lakhs of trees have been ruined for want of rains, the PIL pointed out.