The triple murders took place in front of dozens of people.
On Wednesday night, Jeevan Malviya, 42, his wife Sita Bai, 37, and their son Raju, 19, were illegally drawing water from the municipal corporation’s main supply line in Sanjay Nagar in Bhopal’s city when they were brutally stabbed to death by a group of about half-a-dozen men who wanted the water for themselves.
Not one person in the dingy slum area protested or made an effort to nab the killers. They just wanted to collect whatever water they could before the pipe ran dry. The three bodies lay on the street for more than an hour before the police arrived.
“Since the beginning of this year, our lives have revolved around just one thought: how to get enough drinking water, given that it is supplied just once every four-five days,” said Savita Bai, who lives in the same slum cluster as the murdered family.
Madhya Pradesh Public Health Engineering (PHE) Minister Gauri Shankar Bisen, admitted that was a severe water crisis in 34 out of MPs 50 districts.
The water crisis, caused by inadequate rainfall in large parts of Madhya Pradesh and especially in the Indore, Bhopal and Ujjain divisions, since 2008, has intensified over the last fortnight, and this has led to a spurt in water-related violence.
For example, Bhopal district received only 700 mm of rainfall in 2008, 40 per cent less than the annual average of 1,090 mm. Over 50 violent clashes over water have been reported in May alone, a senior police officer, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said.
Water levels in Bhopal’s Upper Lake and the nearby Kolar Dam, which supply water to Bhopal, have fallen to alarming levels.
According to the government, Bhopal needs 65 to 70 million gallons per day of water everyday. Against this, it is receiving only 40 million gallons per day. The situation is similar in the other affected areas.
Since January this year, at least 12 people have been killed and dozens of others injured as neighbour turns on neighbour and even blood relatives fight each other over a bucket of water.
On Thursday morning, barely 12 hours after the triple murders, a young man thrashed a woman. The reason: an altercation over their respective places in a water queue.
On Thursday, irate residents of Indore’s Nanda Nagar area locked up Indore Municipal Corporation employees to protest insufficient water supply.
Sporadic instances of violence have been reported from several parts of the city.
Such fights “and even murders” have become regular occurrences.
To combat the situation, the state police headquarters has issued an alert. “Based on intelligence inputs, adequate arrangements are being made to prevent any untoward incidents due to the water crisis,” said state Home Secretary Sanjay Rana.
The government, meanwhile, seems to have run out of ideas to combat the crisis. “We are keeping an eye on the situation and will take steps soon,” said PHE Minister Bisen.