Muhammad Jabir Khan is a tailor by profession but his work has not started after the lockdown was relaxed. He has approval from the BMC for the water connection but the contractors are demanding Rs 35,000 he said. “I spend Rs 60 per day on water for my family of five people. My work has not started after the lockdown and there is no earning. I was not able to pay the school fees of my children this year so they are not able to attend their online classes. Now, the contractor is asking a huge amount for water connection. I cannot afford it,” Khan said.
In slums, five households adjacent to each other are given one water connection. It first gets approval from the BMC and they have to deposit Rs 500 each. Then they pay to a contractor or certified plumber for the pipeline and water meter which comes out around Rs 10,000.
Rais Azad has a family of seven people and spends Rs 100 daily to buy water. “We get tankers or get it from the nearby basti. We have been fighting to get water connection to our Ambujwadi since 2010. I applied in 2014 but haven’t got the connection yet. Our people had protested in 2015 at the BMC office but did not get any assurance. Even the High Court has ruled in our favour. But these contractors are not ready to charge the right price,” Azad said.
Ambujwadi is a densely populated slum area with narrow lanes and small houses having no legal water connection. It has people mostly from the working class community like drivers, house maids, small shop owners, hawkers etc. The people either get water from the nearby Malvani area which is 2km away or buy tankers. On an average, they spend Rs 60 to 100 daily for water depending on the number of family members.
“We had approached the Bombay High Court for the water rights through a PIL. In 2014, the High court ordered in our favour and told BMC to give water connection to all citizens. We led a protest march to the BMC office in the ward in 2015. The BMC cannot deny water to any of the citizens. It has to pay attention to the issue. Despite the HC judgement, it is very unfair if a large population is still struggling for water and BMC has no control over the certified plumbers or contractors. These people are poor, lost jobs during covid time and they cannot pay such a huge amount for water,” Bilal Khan from Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan said.
The local ward officer of the BMC did not reply to phone calls and text messages.