Pani Haq Samiti, an organisation fighting to secure the universal right to water through mobilising public opinion, said on Monday that it would approach concerned ministries, the Railways and forest departments to obtain no-objection certificates, so that the Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is able to fully implement its ‘water for all’ policy.
The Bombay High Court had passed a judgement in December 2014 allowing homes, both legal and illegal, access to water, as it is everyone’s fundamental right. The order came on a October 2011 Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Pani Haq Samiti. The PIL challenged a March 1996 circular of the State’s Urban Development Department preventing ‘unauthorised slums,’ from accessing municipal water supply.
The final judgement of the HC stated that whether homes are deemed ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ – in upholding Article 21 of the Indian Constitution – it is the responsibility of the government to provide water to all. In 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) released a ‘water for all’ policy, but it has not been fully implemented due to issues in obtaining no-objection certificates from certain ministries, and government agencies.
Sitaram Shelar, convenor of Pani Haq Samiti, said the municipal corporation has a ‘water for all’ policy but they are bound by other departments in properly implementing it. “The BMC needs a no-objection certificate from the Railways, forest and salt departments and they are refusing to give this. But the BMC cannot use this as an excuse to not implement its policy.”
“We are approaching the concerned to co-operate in ensuring that water reaches all. We are also reaching out to various social organisations to support us,” Mr. Shelar said.
Rehana Mandal, a resident of Darukhana, Mazgaon said several people living near railway tracks die as they cross over to fetch water. “They cannot see because they are usually carrying drums full of water. It is a risky job, but they have to get water from somewhere. The official cause of death is given as railway accidents.”
Sunil Yadav, a resident of Gokuldham, Goregaon, said, “People have been living here for decades but have no evidence, hence there is no water supply. There is no legal access to water which leaves them with no option but to take water from illegal sources. We have to spend around ₹2,000 every month to get water, which we can barely afford. Also, the area is hilly, we see many accidents daily of people falling, especially pregnant women and the aged, while going to fetch water.”
Sharing the larger implications of the issue, Mr. Shelar said, “Over two million people in Mumbai are affected and are begging for their rights. There is financial exploitation of the poor.”