March 24, 2015 12:34:24 am
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s new draft policy for supplying water to inhabitants of unauthorised and unprotected slum clusters in Mumbai has excluded slum clusters on land owned by the Central government, which has met with opposition from activists and politicians.
The draft policy says that such slumdwellers must obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Central agency that owns the land before approaching the civic body for water supply.
This clause has been objected to by activists and corporators as it leaves out slumdwellers who live on land owned by the Railways — a substantial number.
Rais Shaikh, corporator from the Samajwadi Party and a member of the BMC Standing Committee said, “The Bombay High Court has clearly said in its order that all illegal slums should get water supply and it is their fundamental right. BMC’s duty is to implement the order and not interpret it. We have demanded that the clause be removed from the draft policy before it is presented to the court.”
In its draft, BMC has also said that illegal hutments on footpaths and on privately owned land will not be supplied water. Slumdwellers who are given water supply will also have to go and seek a renewal of their water connection every year from the hydraulic engineering department of the BMC.
Also, civic officials confirmed that even if the policy is passed by the standing committee, it will be at least two years before these slums actually get water.
The proposal has been deferred twice by the standing committee and is expected to be tabled again this week. An official said, “There are hutments in hilly areas where the water pressure might be really low. We have to improve the facility. We also have to prepare a distribution plan, which will take time.”
Sitaram Shelar, convenor, Pani Haq Samiti said, “It is a bureaucratic mentality to not provide water to people living in slums. Since most of these people also belong to the lower castes, the administration does not care about them. People living in every slum have to be accommodated in the new policy.”
Pani Haq Samiti, a group comprising activists, organisations, institutions and slumdwellers, had filed a PIL in 2011 at the Bombay High Court demanding the right to water for all residents in Mumbai, irrespective of slum regularisation cut-off dates.
The high court, last December, had observed that water is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and had asked the BMC to come up with a policy, which has to be submitted to the court by April 2.
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