The entire Maharashtra is facing severe drought. So, water has become burning issue for the residents of the state. Amid this water crisis, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has increased the trouble of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The BMC has declared Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis’s ‘Varsha’ bungalow as a defaulter for not paying water bills. 18 other ministers of the state have also been named in the list of defaulters. Maharashtra state government official residences owe Rs 8 crore to the BMC for different services.
On being asked about the issue, the RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh told Afternoon Voice, “I filed RTI application on June 11 and got reply after 7-8 days. I have demanded the BMC to recover money or disconnect water supply. It must take action against defaulters. But the matter is related to the head of the state government. So, there is pressure over the civic body. It is the responsibility the Chief Minister and the Public Works Department to pay all dues to the BMC as early as possible. Only then the BMC can spend public’s money on its well-being and development works.”
He said, “If the bills of Chief Minister’s and other State Minister’s bungalows are not paid in time, then how can anybody expect a common man to do it? If the common public fails to pay the bills, their water connection is disconnected. The same should be done to all the defaulters including Chief Minister’s official bungalow.”
According to a reply to an RTI query, the BMC has said that the Chief Minister’s official bungalow is yet to pay water bills worth Rs 7,44,981. The RTI report further revealed that the official bungalows of state ministers, including CM Devendra Fadnavis, haven’t paid bills worth Rs 45 lakh. This RTI query was filed by activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh from the NGO Adhikar Foundation. He hit out at the authorities over their failure to take action.
D. P. Tripathi, General Secretary, NCP said, “We condemn defaulter ministers of Devendra Fadnavis government for not paying water bills of the BMC. It is dereliction of the ministers. They should pay water bills soon. Either Chief Minister or the PWD cannot escape from their responsibilities. The NCP will raise this issue in the state Assembly.”
It is worth mentioning that Maharashtra Assembly elections are scheduled to take place in October this year. The Bharatiya Janata Party will fight Assembly elections under the leadership of Fadnavis. Therefore, the issue of the pending bills will definitely give the opposition ammunition to take on the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena combine in the state. The BMC charges Rs 5.22 per thousand litres of water while people living in slums pay only Rs 4.33 per thousand litres.
On the other hand, the BJP spokesperson Avadhut Wagh said, “All these bungalows belong to the PWD, not to any particular person. The PWD receives water bills. As far as the BMC and the PWD is concerned, whatever difference is there we will settle it. It is a government to government issue, not a private issue which will be sorted out.”
As per RTI reply, the municipal corporation in the list named 19 Maharashtra ministers. The list includes Pankaja Munde, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Diwakar Raote and others. The list includes Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s ‘Devgari’ bungalow that has defaulted on Rs 4,45,055 in water bills, Transport Minister Diwakar Raote’s ‘Meghdoot’ bungalow that failed to pay bills worth Rs. 1,61,719 and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde’s bungalow that defaulted on bills worth Rs 35,033. Names of Vinod Tawde, Ramdas Kadam, Ashish Shelar, Subhash Desai, Eknath Shinde, Chandrashekhar Bavankule and Mahadev Jankar was also mentioned in the list of defaulters. Apart from the minister’s official residences, the state government’s official guest house ‘Sahyadri’ also has pending bills amounting to Rs 12,04,390. Most of these bills have been pending since 2018.
It is remarkable that monsoon has already been delayed in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The situation in drought hit Maharashtra is very severe. The state has 355 talukas. Out of these, 182 talukas have been declared drought-prone. According to data available for June 13-14, Maharashtra has only 6.8 per cent water of total storage capacity in its dams. The situation is particularly grim in the Marathwada region where water level in reservoirs has dipped to an all-time low. Total capacity of Maharashtra’s dams is 40,604,000 million litres and at present water level is at 6.8% of its total capacity i.e. 2,802,000 million litres, compared to 17% at the same time last year.