Death toll up to 7 in riot over water tanker in Malabar Hill, Mumbai
The driver of the water tanker, Suresh Salve succumbed to his injuries in hospital, as the death toll in the ‘water tanker riot’ rose to 7. Harish Malvade, the guard who fired the first shot killing Pradeep Amre, the 11 year old boy from the local slum, is fighting for his life even as the police waits to question him. Sources say the gun was unlicensed.
The riot apparently broke out as the people from the slum tried to stop the tanker and ask for water. The driver tried to force the tanker through the crowd, injuring some people, and riot broke out. The driver was pulled out and almost beaten to death.
Meanwhile the parents of the boy, Pradeep Amre are leading a morcha of over a 100 slum dwellers demanding an investigation into why a thirsty young school boy was shot for trying to steal a water from the tanker. The Mumbai police are trying to bring the situation under control as the riots threaten to spread to other parts of Mumbai. The water situation continues to be precarious and water tankers are being brought in to Mumbai, but are often unable to get to their destination as they are waylaid by armed gangs.
This is the 5th day of no piped water supply in Mumbai.
There are questions demanding to know why an armed guard was traveling with the water tanker. A news bureau report has confirmed that the guard was hired by the new Water Mafia that has emerged in Mumbai. Hotels and Housing Societies in the posher areas are now dealing directly with the Water Mafia to supply them with water as the BMC distribution systems have broken down, and the State Government is trying to bring the situation under control. Promising that supply lines will be restored as water becomes available. The reservoirs are low, as the demand in the city far outstrips the supply of water.
Meanwhile, the State Government has asked schools and colleges to shut down till the situation eases. Five Star hotels have become a refuge against the water crisis, and in the city are already full. Reportedly they are charging upwards of Rs 75,000 per night, but are not taking any bookings over two to 3 nights as they cannot assure any water supply beyond that. Hotels too apparently are dealing directly with the Water Mafia.
Airlines and trains are reportedly showing heavy loads of people leaving Mumbai, and airlines are putting up more flights. The water crises is a financial bonanza for airlines and hotels in the short term, but the chairman of one airline said in a press conference that in the long term such a crisis will drastically reduce the amount of traffic in Mumbai.
The US government yesterday issued a travel warning to it’s citizens in Mumbai, and are reportedly moving staff to their other consulates within the country till the water crisis eases out.
Citizen groups are co operating with the police and the State Government. The biggest fear is that sectarian violence will break out as local political parties step up their call for a ban of entry of people to Mumbai. The State Government has appealed for calm and said any panic will only make matters worse. They are promising to repair the pipelines that have been damaged. Reports are coming through that some of the pipelines were deliberately damaged by the water mafia to create the shortage.
In the meantime the Army has been called in to ensure that water tankers get through to Hospitals and other essential services, but there have been reports that some of that water has been diverted to the houses of ministers.
Just 5 days into the Water Crisis, and people of Mumbai are living in fear. And in thirst. NGO groups are angry, saying they have been warning of this crisis for a long time. Mr Debankar Rao of the Dekho foundation says that if the recommendations of the Infrastructure Committee had been implemented, this crisis could have been averted :
a. Better Water Management, with 30% of Water wasted in leakages etc, and stopping the nexus between the municipal corporations and the water mafia.
b. More equitable distribution of water through a steep rise in water charges beyond certain levels of consumption.
c. Creating employment and education opportunities in rural areas through implementation of the Broadband Connectivity Policy, in order to stem the pressure on population in Mumbai.