A division bench of MP high court stayed the handing over of water supply scheme in Khandwa town to a private company 'Vishwa Infrastructure and Services Private Limited' for operations and maintenance under public-private partnership (PPP) mode for 23 years.
In its interim order, chief justice justice AM Khanwilkar and justice Sanjay Yadav, while restraining the Khandwa Municipal Corporation from handing over the water supply scheme to the private firm, asked to maintain the existing water supply system till further orders.
Hearing a public interest litigation of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Narmada Jal Sangharsh Samiti, the court said the petitioner has raised an issue of great public importance, in particular, likelihood of infringement of fundamental rights guaranteed to the residents of Khandwa, on account of threat of disconnection of existing water supply mechanism.
Following the high court's interim order, AAP state president Alok Agarwal said during the recently held municipal elections in Madhya Pradesh, privatisation of water supply was one of the main issues. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on his campaign trail in Khandwa had categorically announced that water supply will not be privatised.
However, after the elections, the Khandwa Municipal Corporation declared that existing public water supply system based on borewells and Jaswadi pumping station and treatment plant would be shut down, forcing them to move court against the decision, said Agarwal.
He further said that a wave of re-municipalisation of private water contracts is currently ongoing across the world due to campaigns against water privatisation by citizens and local groups like the one undertaken in Khandwa.
Re-municipalisation broadly means a process where municipal bodies have decided to terminate private water supply contracts and taken responsibility of water supply services to their residents in their own hands.
It needs to be mentioned that the state government had also constituted an independent committee, constituting independent experts and people's representatives, in March 2013 to investigate into the objections raised by the residents against the private water supply project in the town.
The recommendations of the independent committee included cancellation of the private water supply contract and operations to be undertaken by the municipal corporation, Agarwal.