Authorities in Latur district on Monday denied that prohibitory orders under Section 144, imposed in and around water-filling points, had been clamped because they feared law and order problems. Officials said the order was routine and that the issue was being blown out of proportion, adding that efforts were under way on a war-footing to tackle the severe water shortage in the district.
“We have imposed prohibitory orders as a preventive measure and not because of any law and order problems. It is a routine step…,” Latur district collector Pandurang Pole told The Indian Express on Monday. Pole said prohibitory orders would be in place till the month-end and at only six water-filling points, not the entire district.
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“Even during polling, prohibitory orders are imposed to ensure peace. We imposed the prohibitory orders as a preventive measure,” he said, adding it had the support of the city mayor and Opposition parties.
He said prohibitory orders had been imposed at six water-filling points and not 20 as was being made out. “These six points are located on the outskirts of Latur city… Tankers lift water from these points and supply it to rural and urban areas,” he said.
The prohibitory orders come amid fears expressed by NCP chief Sharad Pawar some months ago that the drought in Maharashtra could result in law and order problems if the government did not address it properly. “The situation is exceptionally dangerous. I fear the drought can become a law and order issue. I have not seen a situation like this in my 50 years in public life… drinking water and fodder are a big issue,” Pawar had said after touring Marathwada. Latur’s water crisis escalated after the Manjargaon dam ran dry. The administration then turned to three other barrages – Dongargaon, Bandarwadi and Lower Terna in the district. The administration on Monday claimed all the three barrages had enough water to last till the monsoon.
“Every citizen is forced to buy water for Rs 1,000 almost everyday as the water quota provided by the civic body is not sufficient to meet needs,” Dr Kalyan Barmade of the Indian Medical Association told this paper last week. Besides, he said around 150 small and big hospitals in Latur had been hit hard with two major hospitals, one private and one government, having to stop all surgeries because of lack of water.
A total of 215 tankers were supplying water in rural areas while over 70 tankers were doing the rounds in city areas, officials said. Besides, several private organisations were chipping in with tankers, they added.
Officials said in rural areas, 20 litres of water were being provided per person. “This means, a family of five gets 100 litres water everyday,” said resident deputy collector Narayan Ubale.
The district administration denied mass migration was taking place from Latur. “Such reports are not true. People do migrate after exams of children get over. But since Latur is an education hub, the movement of people continues back and forth,” the district collector said.