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BJP leaders differ on water for distilleries

A day after Girish Mahajan said govt was considering water cuts for breweries and distilleries, Pankaja Munde says no cuts needed if they are using water reserved for them

mumbai Updated: Apr 17, 2016 01:11 IST
Faisal Malik

Differences have surfaced within the BJP-led state government over a demand to stop supplying water to breweries and distilleries in drought-hit Marathwada. State rural development minister Pankaja Munde, who is originally from the region, said on Saturday that there is no need to stop their water supply if they are not using water meant for drinking or agriculture. On Friday, water resources minister Girish Mahajan had told journalists in Jalgaon that the government was considering cutting the supply of water to beer and liquor factories because of the water crisis in Marathwada. On Saturday, Mahajan told HT that he is also considering cutting the supply to bottled-water plants in the region.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis meanwhile said that the government has sought a report from the local administration in Marathwada and that a decision on reducing the water supply to breweries and distilleries will be taken shortly.

Aurangabad collector Nidhi Pande on Saturday decided to reduce the supply of water to breweries and distilleries by 20%. “In view of the water crisis, we have decided to cut water supply to breweries and distilleries by 20%. Other industries will face a 10% water cut from today,” Pande said. A decision on reducing the water supply even further will be taken in the coming days, she added.

Mahajan said that the local administration has been asked to submit a report on the water situation and whether drinking water is being supplied to beer and liquor units. “The government’s decision on water cuts will be based on the report from the local administration. Once we know the exact situation, the government will decide whether the water supply should be stop completely or only reduced,” Mahajan said. He said that water bottling-plants may also have to face cuts. Aurangabad has four such plants, one of which belongs to PepsiCo. “It is a question of people’s survival and obviously the government can’t allow industries to run while people are dying,” Mahajan told HT.

Munde, however, had a different view on the matter. She said the current water stock is divided in to three categories —water for drinking, agriculture and industry. “Industries get water from the stock reserved for them. If they are getting water from the reserved stock then there is no need to stop their supply. But if they are using water reserved for drinking or agriculture then these units should be closed down,” Munde said.

There are around six breweries in Aurangabad district alone, which get water from the Jayakwadi dam. The local administration has already stopped supplying water to people from the dam as there is no potable water left, an official said. The district also has four distilleries. The region has a large number of liquor and beer manufacturing units. Several sugar factories in the area also have distilleries as alcohol is a byproduct in the making of sugar.

On Saturday, the Shiv Sena also demanded that the supply of water to breweries and distilleries be halted. Party chief Uddhav Thackeray, who was in the drought-hit Aurangabad district to participate in a Shiv Sena-sponsored mass wedding ceremony, demanded that distilleries be shut down as people have no water left to drink. “Wealthy people are misusing water even during a drought. Distilleries need to be shut down immediately. The state government should think about generating revenue in other ways,” Thackeray said.