Observing that it would be shameful for the Maharashtra government if Kambe village in the neighboring Thane district would not receive regular drinking water even after 75 years of Independence, the Bombay High Court has asked the state to ensure that the village gets water through tankers at the earliest on the eve of the Ganpati festival.
A division bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav on Thursday also directed the state government to form committee comprising BMC commissioner and additional commissioner to chalk out a plan to ensure regular water to the village at the earliest when the authorities said that they would take approximately four months to start regular water supply.
To this justice Kathawalla said: “We are going to send this order to the Chief Minister, otherwise the name of this State will be tainted. It is a shame that after 75 years there are such petitions, but we will send the order so that the State should not be shamed further.”
The HC was hearing a petition by Shobhana Bhoi and other villagers seeking supply of drinking water on a daily basis. Their petition states that they receive water just twice a month and that too for approximately two hours a day. They have sought that the STEM Water Distribution and Infra company, a joint venture the Thane Zilla Parishad and the Bhiwandi Nizampur city municipal corporation, be directed to supply drinking water on a daily basis.
The villagers have also contended that the STEM company was supplying water illegally to local political leaders and tanker lobbies. They further claimed that there are over 300 illegal water tapping/connections and valves fixed on the main pipeline.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhkoni informed the HC that the State government was going to find a solution for both the issues – to ensure regular supply of drinking water and to remove illegal water connections.
Kumbhkoni said that the MD of STEM, Bhausaheb Dangde, and his team will chalk out an action plan to solve both the issues.
The judges, however, expressed their distrust in the MD and asked the AG to form a special committee comprising of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner (BMC) Iqbal Singh Chahal and Additional Commissioner Suresh Kakani.
Justice Kathawalla said: “Keep your MD out. We have no trust in the MD. Appoint our (BMC) commissioner. We find him responsible.”
Advocate for the villagers, RD Suryawanshi, said that the villagers receive water as the Ganpati festival is to begin. He prayed that at least 10 water tankers be sent to the village.
After inquiring about the costs of the water tankers, justice Kathawalla said: “Either you (Maharashtra government) pay or I will pay.”
The Court was then informed that the company will bear the costs of the water tankers.
The court said that it planned to send the orders in this petition to the Chief Minister to ensure there are no more such villages without water.
Kumbhkoni assured that they will inform the court by September 14 about the plan of action for removing the illegal connections. The plan will be executed in a phase-wise manner with adequate protection to ensure that there are no casualties due to protests, said Kumbhkoni. He also added that the state government planned to build a direct water connection into the village bypassing all the illegal connections.