Khavda Police in Kutch district booked eight persons, some of them hoteliers and cattle-herders, late on Saturday night for allegedly damaging a pipeline and pilfering water from it in Banni area of the arid district. Parsottam Solanki, in-charge executive engineer of Bhuj division of Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB), filed a complaint with Khavda police late Saturday. In his complaint, the engineer stated that eight persons — Mamad Maldhari, Lalubhai Halepotra, Gafur Weldingwala, Akhtar Pancharwalo, Haji Mamad, Ibrahim Sameja, Juma Rayshi and Jabar Halepotra — punctured the supply line of GWSSB pumping water from Bhirandiyara to Gorewali village and stole around 2 lakh litre of water per day.
Based on the complaint, police booked the eight under IPC sections 427 (mischief causing damage to amount of Rs50), 114 (common intent) and Section 3(2) (e) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984.
Nobody was detained or arrested till Sunday evening in connection with the case, said Jitendra Oza, in-charge police sub-inspector of Khavda.
Police said that while Maldhari was a cattle-herder, Weldingwala was a welder. Pancharwalo runs a workshop to fix tyre punctures and Sumeja runs a hotel at Dumado junction. According to Solanki’s complaint, Maldhari, Lalubhai, Weldingwala and Pancharwalo drilled punctures in the pipeline of GWSSB near Hodko village, while Haji Mamad was pilfering water using a similar method at Arandavali road. Sumeja, according to the complaint, was pilfering water for his hotel. On the other hand, Rayshi was drawing water illegally at Sabuvandh and Jabar Halepotra Thikariara village.
All these villages and maldhari settlements, locally called vandh, are located in Banni grassland area in Bhuj taluka of western Kutch.
“The illegal connections were detected during a joint operation of GWSSB, revenue authorities and police to check water pilferage,” Solanki told The Indian Express on Sunday.
The supply line is a part of Banni group water supply project and supplies water to 13 villages and is also the lifeline of Rann Utsav venue. “We were pumping 45,000 litres of water in the pipeline from Bhirandiyara, but the outflow used to fluctuate between 35,000 to 33,000. This made us suspicious that there was pilferage somewhere,” Solanki said.
Kutch District Collector Remya Mohan said that the administration had to take the “extreme step” to ensure water supply to those at the tail-end of the supply line. “These people had attached pipelines in the supply line and were drawing water. Their pipes were cut off and were warned not to indulge in such activities again. But they re-attached their lines and thus damaged the supply line. As they were drawing water illegally, people living at the tail-end of the pipeline were facing difficulties. Water is right of everybody but one cannot snatch away,” said Mohan.