Mumbai: Mercury soars over water woes in Ambedkar Nagar

Apr 05, 2015, 08:40 IST | Sachin Unhalekar

Ambedkar Nagar residents allege that they get only 120 litre per family in spite of legal connection

As Mumbai sizzles with temperatures remaining high in the day, the city’s residents are back to battling their water woes.

Even though the 2013 circular issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) water department has promised to offer 135 litres per capita daily (LPCD) to every Mumbaikar, shockingly, over 7000 families in Ambedkar Nagar manage to get only 120 litres of water per family in spite of legal connections. The reason? The 70 alleged ‘water mafias’ in the locality, who hold the key to local water resources.

Residents of Ambedkar Nagar have to queue up for water every day
Residents of Ambedkar Nagar have to queue up for water every day

Citing technical difficulties, the BMC has confirmed that it won’t be possible to offer individual connections to families. Thus, secretaries of various citizen groups and associations were bestowed with the responsibility of segregating water for the families. However, it is alleged that they limit the stock to six gallons per family (about 20 litres each) and now, numerous families from Ambedkar Nagar have complained that in spite of legal connections, they end up shelling R10-20 for every
gallon on a daily basis and that prices are even hiked to Rs 50 during a water shortage.

The BMC water supply department has allotted one water connection to a minimum of seven and a maximum of 20 families in the slum due to its narrow lanes and an unavailability of space. Hence, to solve the issue, the BMC offered one connection to a representative chosen unanimously by the families, who will share the connection among themselves. However, the practice has taken an ugly turn, as the representatives often exert authoritarian control over the connections and decide the amount of water to be supplied to each family.

Bheema Kadam is a legal resident of Ambedkar Nagar, who has a ration card, light bill and an election card. Shalini Tiwari and Marizina Khan, too, are legal residents of the Nagar and yet, they complain that they have been paying R10 for one can of water every day. Khan said, “We receive only six cans of water from our taps. Our family cannot fulfill basic needs like bathing and cooking with that so we purchase water from outside.”

Shockingly, the families have also paid deposits to their representatives and still are turned down by them. Tiwari said, “We were told that water bills have extraordinarily expensive rates and due to this, he (the representative) can give us only five to six cans of water and the rest of the cans are sold by him. But, if we ask him to give us evidence by showing the bills, he refuses.”

“We pay them around Rs 300 to Rs 00 and also give them a deposit of Rs 1,000-R3,000. Even then, we receive only 5-6 gallons of water and yet, we can’t complain because we need water,” said Kadam.

A former corporator from the vicinity, Vinod Shekhar, said, “The question of tackling this issue will be resolved only if residents are given individual water lines. I am trying to get a grant for the water lines.”

Pratap Rawat, a resident of Ambedkar Nagar and the Mumbai President of Dalit Panther, has identified 70 spots where instances of fraud with regards to water supply have taken place. “I sent copies of these cases to ward offices, municipal commissioner and even the state government but no one has taken action. Our demand is that if people are ready to pay for the water individually, they should be allotted individual pipelines,” said Rawat.

Ramesh Bamble, Hydraulic engineer, Water Department, said, “If the representatives are misbehaving and people want to change them, they can officially send us a letter. We are ready to help them with the crisis.”

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