Unfortunate that people have to knock on court's doors to get water after 75 years of independence: HC

By PTI

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said supply of regular drinking water was a fundamental right and it was unfortunate that people have to knock on the court’s doors to get water even after 75 years of independence.

The strong remarks were made by a division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav while hearing a petition filed by residents of Kambe village in Bhiwandi town of neighbouring Thane district.

They were seeking a direction to STEM Water Distribution and Infra company, a joint venture of the Thane Zilla Parishad and the Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation, to supply drinking water on a daily basis.

The petitioners contended that they are currently getting water supply only twice a month and that too for approximately two hours.

On Wednesday, STEM’s Managing Director Bhausaheb Dangde informed the court that water was being supplied daily, but only to one particular point, and claimed the distribution of water from that point to the petitioners’ homes was the responsibility of the village’s gram panchayat.

Dangde further said the demand for water in the village has increased over the last few years because of a rise in population there.

“We need to upgrade the system,” he said.

To this, the court asked what should the petitioners do till the system is upgraded.

“Water has to be supplied daily for at least a few hours. This is their fundamental right. People cannot suffer like this. It is really unfortunate that they (petitioners) have to knock on the court’s doors even after 75 years of independence to get water supply,” the HC said.

“Don’t force us to say that the Maharashtra government has failed to provide water to its citizens. We refuse to accept that the state government is so helpless. We will not shy away from calling the highest functionary of the state government,” the bench said.

The petitioners had also alleged that the STEM company was supplying water illegally to local politicians and tanker lobbies, and claimed there were over 300 illegal water connections and valves fixed on the main pipeline.

The court sought to know from Dangde what steps the company has taken to address these issues.

“First remove these illegal connections. You (STEM) have not even bothered to file any police complaints. Because of your inaction, the petitioners, who have to receive water as a right, are not getting any water,” Justice Kathawalla said, adding that Dangde does not seem to be interested in solving the problem.

However, Dangde said when they go to remove the illegal connections, a crowd of over 150 people gathers and protests against their action.

The HC posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday, and directed Dangde to appear before the court physically and file an affidavit.