State must ensure water accessibility to all: Bombay HC

Blog by Debadityo Sinha (debadityo@gmail.com) (with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar (SANDRP))

In a landmark judgment dated Dec 15, 2014, Mumbai High Court bench of Justices Abhay S Oka & A S Gadkari have ruled: “Right to get water is an integral part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India…”

A rejoiced Sitaram Shelar[1] of petitioner Pani Haq Samiti noted in press release on the day of the judgment, “Reinforcing the intrinsic relationship between water and life, the judgment established that the right to water is as fundamental as the right to life… Pani Haq Samiti will continue the struggle towards ensuring that those living in slums access their right to water.”

Through this case, the apathy of the middle class and a few mainstream political parties towards those living in slums has become evident. Adv Mihir Desai representing Pani Haq Samiti has been instrumental in reinforcing the fact that water is a right and cannot be seen within the purview of slums and illegality alone. Samiti says: “For all those fighting for the right to water in the country, this is a historic judgment. This is the first time that it has been stated that in order to realise Article 21, access to water is essential. Till date there has been no law in India that mandates water to all. The judgment is a great impetus to movements across the country fighting for the basic rights of people.”

Slum dwellers collecting water from a water tanker (Source: India Water Portal)

Slum dwellers collecting water from a water tanker (Source: India Water Portal)

The impact of lack of water has impacted both, people as well as the MCGM. Negative impacts of the lack of water supply that have been borne by the Corporation include:  an increase in the amount of unaccounted for water (UWF); emergence of the water mafia through which illegal connections and leakages increased; increased contamination of water lines; lastly, revenue that could be earned by the MCGM was being pocketed by the water mafia. Various studies conducted by YUVA, TISS and other organizations on the impact of lack of access to water in slums has found that: Access to water has been only through the water mafia; while buildings are provided 1000 litres of water for Rs 4, the water mafia charge Rs 1000 for 1000 litres of water in slums – water has become a financial burden as 30 to 40 percent of a family’s income was spent on water.

Slums Indian cities While the cities of India are undergoing a transition phase in the form of rapid developments of modernized apartments, industries and commercial complexes, the ingress of labor and job seekers from other parts of the country, added to the fact that availability of land is now a highly contested resource – the urban areas has seen a prolific development of the informal settlements or the slums.

Slums water source data map from 2011 census

Slums water source data map from 2011 census

As per census of India, “Slum” has been defined as residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangements and design of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of street, lack of ventilation, light, water or sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors which are detrimental to the safety and health. 17.4% (137 lakhs) of Indian households are slum, out of which only 49.65 lakhs of households are ‘Notified Slums’ as per the latest census of 2011.

In many Indian cities and towns facing the challenges of increasing populations and expansion of urban areas, direct access to clean, affordable, and reliable drinking water is a significant challenge, especially to the poor who lives in slums. A per the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program’s Report of April, 2014, only 51% of the urban households have coverage of piped onto premises supply of drinking water and 46% are covered by other improved sources.

Most of the slum dwellers in Mumbai lack the basic necessities of life. Despite the fact that many slums have been notified by the government, one tap is shared by more than thousand persons in some of the slum compared to an average of 52 persons per tap.[2] The number of slums in Mumbai which came up after the year 2000 were officially prevented from provision of Municipal water supply.

In 2012, a Public Interest Litigation (no 10 of 2012) was filed by Pani Haq Samiti[3] and others (vs Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation and others) in the Bombay High Court challenging the State Government Circular dated 4th March, 1996 which provides that the Local Authorities shall ensure that the water supply is not released to any unauthorized constructions. .  On the basis of this circular, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) prohibited regularized water connections to nearly 30 lakh people living in post 1995 slums the city. The petition also challenged a rule framed by Mumbai Municipal Corporation which initially provided that the water shall be made available to the structures in existence in slum areas till 1st January 1995, deadline of which is extended till 1st January, 2000. The question was whether the slums which illegally came up after 1st January, 2000 are entitled for water supply or not?

Sawda Ghevra village water kiosk in North West Delhi (Source: The Hindu)

Sawda Ghevra village water kiosk in North West Delhi (Source: The Hindu)

The State Government, however, in their reply stated that there is nothing illegal in the policy of State Government not to grant water supply to residents of illegal slums since the same is being done as State does not want to encourage the construction of such illegal sums and people occupying such illegal slums. The State Government showed concerns that any relief to the petition would mean encouraging the construction of the illegal slums, some of which are in difficult areas of the city like hills where provision of water supply is impossible for the Municipal Corporation. The concerns of encroachment of CRZ areas and forest lands by slums were specifically pointed out to the court and argued that it will lead to irreparable damage to the environment.

In a Chamber Summons filed in support of the contention that the notion that criminals or anti-social elements are staying in the slum areas is without any foundation, the fact that around 4,426 constables and 81 Inspectors of Mumbai Police lives in Slums as per April, 2006 data also came into light. The occupants of post 1st January 1995 slums include employees of Government itself as well as the employees of the Municipal Corporation and other Authorities.

Throwing light on the fact that the Municipal Corporation is supplying water to the unauthorized occupants to the buildings in Mumbai which do not have occupation certificates or completion certificates on humanitarian grounds, the judgment observed, ‘Humanitarian considerations are applied to only a category of unauthorized occupants. The unauthorized occupants of constructed buildings are protected by providing water supply, but not the persons residing in slums. We are mentioning this only to point out the approach of the Municipal Corporation.’

‘In a situation where State Government encourages the creation of jobs, allows the bringing in of migrant labour and work force, makes the city of Mumbai and attraction for job-seeker, the State has done nothing to provide low cost housing in the city’, the judgment quoted a para from the application.

Defining the limitation of Article 21 of Constitution of India to protection of such illegal constructions, the Court stated that the Authorities are under legal obligation to ensure that the illegal constructions do not come up and if they come up the same are effectively and expeditiously demolished by following the due process of law.  But, State cannot deprive a citizen of his fundamental right to food and water which is an integral part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 on the ground that he is in occupation of an illegally constructed hut.

S.No. Million Plus Cities Proportion of Slum HHs to Total Urban HHs (%)[4]
1 Greater Visakhapatnam M Corp. 44.1
2 Jabalpur Cantt (CB) 43.3
3 Greater Mumbai (M Corp.) 41.3
4 Vijayawada (M Corp.) 40.6
5 Meerut (M Corp.) 40
6 Raipur (M Corp.) 39
7 Nagpur (M Corp.) 34.3
8 Greater Hyderabad M Corp. (GHMC) 31.9
9 Kota (M Corp.) 31.8
10 Agra (M Corp.) 29.8
Top 5 States reporting Slum Households
State Proportion of Slum HHs to Urban HHs (%)
Andhra Pradesh 35.7
Chhattisgarh 31.9
Madhya Pradesh 28.3
Odisha 23.1
West Bengal 21.9

While the court directions are certainly a landmark judgment which provides the Right to Water as an integral part of the fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution, but it may not be of any help in eradication of the ‘Water Poverty’ taking into account the situation of slums in Mumbai. The court directions have made it clear that the provision of water supply to such illegal slums may not be as par with the law abiding citizen who is occupying lawfully constructed premises having occupation or completion certificate. It has further stated that the Municipal Corporation is free to provide the water at higher rate than the rate which is charged from authorized construction, which means the slum residents may need to pay higher rates for the water.

In cities like Delhi, the informal settlements depend on community level sources of water supply like community stand posts, hand pumps and tankers. The tankers are one of the major water supply sources but have no fixed timing. The households dependent on hand pumps have 24 hours of water supply but the quality of water is poor due to contamination of groundwater. Households depended on community level water supply have to spend more than one hour to fetch water, many times wasting their sleep as the duration is early morning or late night hours. But there is a high level of readiness to pay if provided improved services.[5]

In such scenario the emphasis by the court for provision of drinking water through public booths on the basis of prepaid cards might be an alternative option for such areas. But it must be ensured that the water supplied by the Municipal Corporation is affordable, reliable in quality as well as accessible to all the households.

Many cities of India like Delhi, Bangalore and water scarce towns like Barmer in Rajasthan are already under the implementation stage of such water booths and the drinking water is provided 24 x 7 at rate of Rs. 5 per 20 liters of water. Last year Delhi Jal Board, the government authority responsible for providing water to Delhi colonies initiated installation of water kiosks in several slums and resettlement colonies with an initial rate of 30 paise per liter.[6],[7] But most of the households still prefer the DJB tankers instead of the water kiosks for day to day work, largely due to the cost involved which is otherwise free in case of tankers.[8]

The judgment provides a just basis for the smart cities that the government is trying to push. It is indeed possible to have smart cities without cities being dependent on mega dams and river linking projects[9]. Such mega dams or river linking projects are neither necessary nor just.

The Pani Haq Samiti Press statement noted, “Restating that water supply is mandatory despite the legality of structure, the Court ordered the MCGM to submit a water supply proposal on or before February end 2015. As an advice to the MCGM, the Court reiterated a Pani Haq Samiti suggestion that could be included in the proposal, i.e. instead of providing individual connections, group connections could be provided for every 7-15 families as per MCGM water rules. This would help in management of water supply to all areas.” The order adds: “We direct the Municipal Corporation to file an affidavit of compliance on or before 2nd March 2015.”

The judgment can have far reaching implications not only for slum dwellers of Mumbai, but millions of others all over India.

POST SCRIPT:

1. FOR FULL HC JUDGMENT, SEE: http://bombayhighcourt.nic.in/generatenewauth.php?auth=cGF0aD0uL2RhdGEvanVkZ2VtZW50cy8yMDE0LyZmbmFtZT1PU1BJTDU5MTEucGRmJnNtZmxhZz1O. 

2. For Hindi translation of the above blog by Rehmat of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra and critical comment by Dunu Roy, see the comments section below. 

3. This article republished at: http://counterview.org/2015/01/23/recent-mumbai-high-court-direction-suggests-that-the-right-to-water-is-an-integral-part-of-the-fundamental-right-under-article-21/

4. The Statesman (5.3.2015) has published  an article ‘A lesser Fundamental Right to Water’ by our colleague Sujith Koonan. He has incisively analysed the Dec.2014 Bombay High Court judgment and shown how unfair the judgment is to slum-dwellers. The issue raised here is fundamentally important for all right activists. Here is the link: http://www.ielrc.org/content/n1505.pdf

END NOTES:

[1] He is also Program Director (Maharashtra) of YOUTH FOR UNITY & VOLUNTARY ACTION (YUVA).

[2] Slum Conditions in Mumbai with Reference to the Access of Civic Amenities, IIPS Mumbai, ENVIS center, Volume 5, No. 1, March, 2008

[3] A collective of activists, organizations, institutions and slum dwellers)

[4] Housing Stock, Amenities & Assets in Slums- Census, 2011, Dr. C. Chandramouli, Registrar General & Census Commissoner, India

[5] Profiling Informal City of Delhi, Water Aid, 2005

[6] http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/draw-water-from-atms-for-30-paise-under-delhi-jal-boards-new-initiative/

[7] http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-500-water-atm-s-proposed-in-delhi-city-2003173

[8] http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/not-many-takers-for-water-kiosks/article5950438.ece

[9] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/water-smart-mumbai-open-letter-to-cm-devendra-fadnavis/

5 Comments on “State must ensure water accessibility to all: Bombay HC

  1. Dear Himanshu,
    While the Mumbai High Court’s order is certainly welcome since it invokes Article 21 for the Right to Water, I have a few problems to share and discuss:

    1. Firstly, Article 21 itself is problematic for me because, while it is generally (and somewhat mistakenly) referred to as Right to Life, the actual Article reads very differently. It says “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. In other words, the State can take a person’s life if it adopts something called “lawful procedure”, and that too is an interpretation of law. So this is not an absolute Right but a conditional one. And, when applied to Livelihoods, Environment, and now Water, the same Article can be read to justify the State’s deprivation of that Right through “procedure established by law”.

    2. When applied to slums, this “procedure” becomes much clearer when slums are categorised as “illegal”. This again is a faulty interpretation of the law. Neither the Census (which is not a justiciable document) nor the Slum Act (which is) define a slum as “illegal”. The Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act 1956 says a slum is defined when a “competent authority … is satisfied as respects any area that the buildings in that area (a) are unfit in any respect for human habitation; or (b) are by reason of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangement and design of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation, light or sanitation facilities, or any combination of these factors, are detrimental to safety, health or morals, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare such area to be a slum area.”
    Please note that “illegal” is not a criteria at all; that the norms are environmental/health ones; and there is this curious entry of morality into the definition. Hence, the “competent authority” has a pretty wide area of discretion in declaring a slum, but illegality is not within that ambit. Hence, the State Government’s argument that the slums are illegal is itself without legal basis. And that is how, to my mind, the rebuttal should have been made in Court, rather than relying on the argument that “the notion that criminals or anti-social elements are staying in slum areas is without any foundation” (which, incidentally, strengthens the morality aspect).

    3. It is this implicit acceptance of the “illegality” concept that has led to the Court declaring that “Corporation is free to provide the water at a higher rate than the rate which is charged from authorized construction”. This not only violates the notion of equal Rights embedded in our Constitution, but also makes it easier for the neo-liberal State to retreat from its welfare duties, with particular emphasis on the vulnerable, which again is part of the Constitutional mandate.

    4. Finally, I find a series of observations being made by “civil society” organisations which are very disturbing because they further develop this kind of anti-slum (or anti-worker) attitude – without perhaps consciously meaning to do so. For instance, the view that there is “high level of readiness to pay if provided improved services” propagated by Water Aid has been and is being used to justify charging people for water (how can you “charge” for a Fundamental Right!?) through gadgets like water kiosks in Sabda Ghevra – which again is being “popularised” by technical NGOs like CURE – or for rationalising the whole “cash for welfare” schemes of a neo-liberal government.
    Then there is The Hindu’s view that slums prefer the DJB tankers “largely due to the cost involved”. This is a very economistic view and anyone who has worked in the slums of Delhi (or anywhere else) would know that the families who live in slums are far more intelligent. They do not like the kiosks not only because of the cost but also because of the fact that you can only get drinking water from them, you still have to go to the tanker for all other water needs (for the readers of The Hindu, of course, this distinction is not important); and also because the kiosks do not represent an accountable entity, the tanker does because there are a couple of human beings there and the location of the DJB office is also well-known enough to register protests.
    And I am really saddened to note SANDRP’s contribution to this clutter of mis-information and mis-argument when reading that the “judgement provides a just basis for the smart cities” only by citing the environmental rationale for such an argument. In my view, nothing can provide a just basis for the “smart” city because the “smart”ness of such cities essentially lies in the use of “smart” technology to fatten the pockets of the few multi-nationals “smart” enough to have monopolised the field of information technology at an early stage of the game, as well as to gather more “user charge” from the citizen (as consumer). Would SANDRP, for instance, endorse the view that the present set of orders from the Supreme Court or the MP High Court on the Narmada dams, provides a just basis for the construction of mega dams?

    I do not hold at all that my views are the “correct” ones but at least they need to be stated in all honesty. So I hope you will circulate these views of mine with as much vigour as you have circulated the previous email so that the field is opened up for a discussion which is much needed.

    Best wishes

    Like

    • Many thanks, Dunu,

      For posting your thought provoking comments on the judgement and the blog. I generally agree with you and invite responses from all concerned.

      Thanks again,
      Himanshu Thakkar

      Like

  2. सरकार सभी को पानी उपलब्ध करवाऍं : बॉम्बे हायकोर्ट

    बॉम्बे हायकोर्ट ने अपने एक महत्त्वपूर्ण आदेश में कहा है कि ‘संविधान के अनुच्छेद 21 में वर्णित जीने के अधिकार में पानी का अधिकार अंतर्निहित है। पानी हक समिति (मुंबई) की एक जनहित याचिका पर यह फैसला जस्टिस अभय एस ओका एवं जस्टिस एएस गडकरी की युगलपीठ द्वारा सुनाया गया।

    पानी हक समिति के श्री सीताराम शेलार ने अपनी प्रतिक्रिया में कहा कि पानी और जीवन के अधिकार के बीच स्वाभाविक संबंध पुनर्स्थापित करने वाले इस फैसले से यह स्पष्ट हो गया है कि पानी का अधिकार जीने के अधिकार की तरह ही बुनियादी अधिकार है।

    इस फैसले से मध्यम वर्ग और मुख्यधारा के राजनैतिक दलों की गरीब बस्तियों के निवासियों के प्रति असंवेदनशीलता स्पष्ट हुई है। पानी हक समिति के वकील श्री मिहिर देसाई की यह तथ्यं स्थापित करने में महत्त्वपूर्ण भूमिका रही कि पानी एक बुनियादी अधिकार है और इसे गरीब बस्ती या अवैधानिकता के नजरिए से नहीं देखा जा सकता है। पानी हक समिति के अनुसार पानी के अधिकार के लिए लड़ने वालों के लिए यह एक ऐतिहासिक फैसला है। कोर्ट के किसी फैसले में ऐसा पहली बार कहा गया है कि जीवन का अधिकार देने के लिए पानी की सुलभता जरुरी है। इस समय देश में ऐसा कोई कानून नहीं है जिसके तहत सबको पानी उपलब्धन करवाना बंधनकारी हो। जन सरोकारों के लिए कार्यरत आंदोलनों के लिए यह फैसला काफी महत्त्व का है।

    कम जलप्रदाय का विपरीत प्रभाव नागरिकों के साथ ही नगरीय निकायों को भी भुगतना पड़ता है। जरुरत से कम जलप्रदाय होने पर जल माफि‍या पैदा होते हैं जिससे अवैध न कनेक्शतन और लीकेज बढ़ता है। ऐसे में नगरीय निकायों के गैर राजस्वप जल में और ज्यादा बढ़ोत्तरी होती है और राजस्व का नुकसान होता है। अवैधानिक तरीके से हासिल पानी का मुनाफा माफिया की जेब में चला जाता है। लीकेज से पेयजल का प्रदूषित होता है जिससे स्वास्‍थ्‍य पर विपरीत प्रभाव पड़ता है। मुंबई की स्वसयंसेवी संस्था युवा, टाटा समाज विज्ञान संस्थान तथा अन्य समूहों द्वारा करवाए अध्ययनों में पाया गया कि जहॉं पर केवल माफि‍या द्वारा ही जल उपलब्धता है वहॉं गरीबों को एक रुपया प्रति लीटर के भाव से पानी खरीदना पड़ता है। जबकि बृन्हमुंबई म्युनिसिपल कार्पोरेशन (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, MCGM) द्वारा बंगलों और फ्लेटों में रहने वालों को मात्र 4 रुपए/हजार लीटर की दर से जलप्रदाय किया जाता है। महँगा पानी खरीदकर पीने वाले गरीबों की आमदनी का 30 से 40 प्रतिशत हिस्सा पानी खरीदने में खर्च हो जाता है।

    मुंबई की अधिकांश झुग्गी बस्तियों में जीवन की बुनियादी सुविधाओं की कमी है। सरकार द्वारा अधिसूचित कई बस्तियों में एक सार्वजनिक नल कनेक्शन पर एक हजार से अधिक जनसंख्या निर्भर है जबकि इंडियन इंस्टींट्यूट ऑफ पॉपुलेशन साईंसेस (IIPS) तथा पर्यावरण एवं वन मंत्रालय के अधीन पर्यावरणीय सूचना तंत्र (ENVIS center) की मुंबई की झुग्‍गी बस्तियों में नागरिक सुविधाओं की स्थिति संबंधी मार्च 2008 की एक रिपोर्ट के अनुसार एक सार्वजनिक नल पर निर्भर जनसंख्याी का ऑंकड़ा मात्र 52 व्यंक्ति है।

    वर्ष 2000 के बाद अस्तित्व में आई बस्तियों में MCGM द्वारा जलप्रदाय रोक दिया गया था। गरीबों के नागरिक अधिकारों के लिए संघर्षरत् पानी हक समिति ने वर्ष 2012 में बॉम्बे् हाईकोर्ट में एक जनहित याचिका (10/2012) दायर कर राज्य सरकार के दिनांक 4 मार्च 1996 के परिपत्र को चुनौती दी जिसमें स्थानीय निकायों से यह सुनिश्चित करने को कहा गया था कि किसी भी अवैध बस्‍ती में जलप्रदाय न किया जाए। इस परिपत्र के आधार MCGM ने इन बस्तियों में नियमानुसार उपलब्ध‍ करवाई गई जलप्रदाय व्यावस्था पर प्रतिबंध लगा कर 1995 के बाद अस्तित्वस में आई बस्तियों के 30 लाख लोगों को पानी से वंचित कर दिया गया था। याचिका में MCGM के उस नियम को भी चुनौती दी गई थी जिसमें 1 जनवरी 1995 के पूर्व निर्मित घरों को ही जलप्रदाय किए जाने का प्रावधान था। बाद में यह तिथि बढ़ा कर 1 जनवरी 2000 कर दी गई थी। ऐसे में सवाल यह था कि जो बस्तियॉं 1 जनवरी 2000 के बाद बसी वे जलप्रदाय की पात्र है या नहीं?

    राज्य सरकार ने कोर्ट में प्रस्तुत अपने जवाब में तर्क दिया कि अवैध बस्तियों में रहने वालों को जलप्रदाय नहीं करने की नीति में कुछ भी गलत नहीं है और यह इसलिए किया गया है कि सरकार ऐसी अवैध बस्तियों और इनमें रहने वाले लोगों को प्रोत्साहन नहीं देना चाहती। सरकार ने चिंता जताई कि इस याचिका में कोई राहत देने का अर्थ अवैध बस्तियों के निर्माण को प्रोत्साहन देना होगा। कुछ बस्तियॉं तो पहाड़ियों जैसे मुश्किल स्थानों पर हैं जहॉं जलप्रदाय असंभव है। कोस्टल रेग्यूलेशन झोन (समुद्र तटीय क्षेत्र नियमन कानून तक तहत) और वनभूमि पर अतिक्रमण जैसी चिंताओं का उल्लेंख करते हुए कहा गया था कि इससे पर्यावरण को अपूरणीय क्षति होगी। बस्तियों में अपराधियों और असामाजिक तत्वों की उपस्थिति की सरकारी धारणा भी कोर्ट में आधारहीन सिद्ध हो गई क्योंंकि 1 जनवरी 1995 के बाद बसी बस्तियों के रहवासियों में सरकारी और नगरनिगम के कर्मचारी भी शामिल थे। वर्ष 2006 के ऑंकड़ों के अनुसार 4426 पुलिस कांस्टेबल और 81 इंस्पेक्टर इन्हीं बस्तियों में ही रहते थे।

    MCGM द्वारा बगैर रहवासी प्रमाणपत्र और पूर्णता प्रमाणपत्र के अवैध भवनों में रहने वालों को मानवीय आधार पर जलप्रदाय करने के तथ्य पर प्रकाश डालते हुए कोर्ट ने कहा ‘अवैध रुप से रहने वाले केवल एक वर्ग के लोगों पर ही मानवीय आधार लागू किया गया है। पक्के बिल्डिंगों के अवैध रहवासियों को जल सुरक्षा दी गई है लेकिन बस्तियों में रहने वालों को नहीं। MCGM के नज़रिए को रेखांकित करने हेतु हम यह उल्लेख कर रहे हैं।’

    इस प्रकार के अवैध निर्माणों के संबंध में संविधान की धारा 21 के विस्तार का उल्लेख करते हुए कोर्ट ने कहा कि अधिकारियों की कानूनी बाध्यता यह सुनिश्चित करना है कि ऐसे अवैध निर्माण न हों और यदि हो तो अधिकारी कानूनन प्रभावी तरीके और शीघ्रता से उन्हें तोड़े। लेकिन सरकार किसी नागरिक को इस आधार पर कि वह अवैध झुग्गीे बस्ती में निवास करता है भोजन और पानी के बुनियादी अधिकारों, जो संविधान के अनुच्छेद 21 में प्रत्याभूत (गारंटीड) जीने के अधिकार का अभिन्न हिस्सा है, से वंचित नहीं कर सकती।

    हालांकि कोर्ट का यह फैसला संविधान सम्मरत जीने के अधिकार में पानी का अधिकार शामिल करने के बारे में मील का पत्थर है लेकिन मुंबई की बस्तियों के संबंध में इससे ‘जल गरीबी’ के निवारण में मदद मिलने की उम्मीद कम है। कोर्ट ने स्पष्ट किया कि इन बस्तियों में जलप्रदाय उन लोगों के समान नहीं होगा जो कानून का पालन कर रहवासी प्रमाणपत्र और पूर्णता प्रमाणपत्र सहित कानूनी रुप से निर्मित मकानों में रहते हैं। कोर्ट ने आगे कहा कि नगर निगम वैध निर्माणों में रहने वालों की अपेक्षा बस्ती वालों को महँगी दरों पर पानी देने के लिए स्वतंत्र है। इसका अर्थ है कि गरीबों को महँगा पानी ही मिलेगा।

    कोर्ट ने MCGM को फरवरी 2015 के अंत या उसके पहले जलप्रदाय का प्रस्ताव प्रस्तुत करने का आदेश दिया है। साथ ही प्रतिपालन रिपोर्ट 2 मार्च 2015 के पूर्व प्रस्तु‍त करने का भी आदेश दिया है।

    इस आदेश के दूरगामी असर न सिर्फ मुंबई की बस्तियों के निवासियों पर होंगे बल्कि इससे देशभर करोड़ों गरीबों को भी लाभ मिलेगा।

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  3. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing this judgement. Right to water as an integral part of life has been laid down as law by the Supreme Court in several judgments. I see why you think that this is a good judgment but a reading of the full order and particularly the directions paints a completely different picture.

    At para 21 are the interim directions made by the Bombay High Court in which it actually treats the slum dwellers as criminals who will grudgingly be given water but ” … the occupants of the slums which have illegally come up after 1st January 2000 cannot claim a right to supply drinking water on par with a right of a law abiding citizen who is occupying lawfully…”. The order further holds that the Municipal Corporation may provide for payment of water charges at a higher rate than the rate which is charged for water supply to the authorized constructions!!!

    The Court then actually then directs that “… the Municipal Authorities shall be under an obligation to take action of prevention of construction of the unauthorized slums and to take action of demolition in accordance with law in relation to the slums which are not protected and which are constructed after 1st January 2000…” and that the Municipal Corporation would have to file an affidavit of compliance to also state the manner in which the Municipal Corporation is going to prevent the construction of such illegal slums and the manner in which the Municipal Corporation is going to take steps for demolition of the illegal slums.

    In my opinion these directions are a carte blanche to the Corporation to demolish all slums that came up after 1st January 2000. Please remember that the cut-off date is an extremely political issue and when Vilasrao Deshmukh came to power, one of his promises was that the cut-off date would be extended to 2005 (if i remember correctly). There is a matter pending in the Bombay High Court regarding the constitutionality of the cut-off date for slums too (mihir is the counsel in this case).

    In all this is a judgement which basically states that the corporation should demolish the houses of post-2000 slum settlements and until that is done it should provide water for slum dwellers (only residential purposes remember) at a higher rate and that this right is not on par with bombay’s”legal” occupants. This is a very dangerous judgement which further whittles down the rights of slum dwellers.

    These are my prima facie observations.

    regards

    clifton

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