The municipal corporation’s dispute with the villages in Shahapur taluka in Thane, who have given up their land for the project, has affected its plans to improve water supply to the city.
For the past two months, protests by villagers have hindered work on the Rs 380-crore Tansa pipe replacement project, aimed at replacing the two old 1,800-mm pipelines with one 2,750 mm pipeline. The villagers –residents of 82 hamlets in Shahapur taluka of Thane district – have threatened to not allow work to continue alleging the civic body has not given them jobs as promised. They say they had not even received adequate compensation when their land was taken for the project 80 years ago.
Currently, work has come to a standstill, as locals are not letting the BMC continue with the work. Villagers of Shirole, Laap, Jambivili, Khaling are not being allowed to carry out survey work for the new pipelines. Work on the new line has been affected near villages like Wadpe, Aghai, Laap-Khurde.
The BMC had time and again promised jobs to these villagers who have lost large tracts of private land to development. In 2007, after a massive 50-hour protest, 275 locals were given jobs and the then municipal commissioner promised jobs to the rest in a phased manner.
“We let them continue the work thinking they were seriously considering our problems, but now we see it was just an eyewash,” said Vishwanath Patil, chief of Kunbi Sena, a local outfit. In August 2010, locals had sent 1,800 job applications to the BMC following a recruitment ad in the newspapers. Of the 1,800 applications for class IV jobs, 634 were scrutinised; the others were rejected citing lack of papers. At a meeting with additional municipal commissioner (projects) Rajiv Jalota on March 4, they were informed that only two of the 634 applications met the criteria.
Patil said the locals would launch a mass agitation from March 20. “The people have been marginalised even after giving up their land for Bhatsa, Tansa, Modak Sagar, and now for laying the pipelines. The BMC has not bothered to even treat them as project-affected people,” said Krushna Patil, police patil of Chinchavali village.
Jalota admitted that the project has been hit and said discussions were on to solve the deadlock. “We are scrutinising the applications made to us for jobs, but they are a few criterion that they need to be fulfilled,” said Jalota. He added that a meeting would be held on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
So far, civic officials have been saying the demands by locals don’t stand as the land was acquired pre-independence, in 1925, and they were compensated as per rules existing then.
‘If I don’t get job, I’ll set myself, kids ablaze’
For the last four years ago, Alisha Bhimrao Jadhav, 35, a widow and a mother of four, has been waiting for the job she had been promised in exchange for her land for the water supply improvement project.
Jadhav, who had to give up nearly one hectare of plot in Chinchavali village, Shahapur taluka of neighbouring Thane district, claims that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has neither given her proper compensation nor a jobs after taking her land for the project.
“If the officials come to survey the land to lay the new Tansa line, I and my four children will lie in front of their dumpers. I don’t want an officer’s job, but at least give me a sweeper’s job,” said Jadhav.
Jadhav, the family’s sole breadwinner currently earns Rs 100 a day by selling vegetables, and is worried about how she would fund the education of her four children.
Her husband and father-in-law died of prolonged illness.
“I don’t have anything to fall back on. If I don’t get a job, I will set myself ablaze, with my four children," said Jadhav.
Water for city, but none for villagers
The BMC may be supplying over 3,000 million litres of water daily from four lakes in Shahapur – Tansa , Modak Sagar, Upper Vaitarna, and Bhatsa – but of the 102 villages in Shahapur and Bhiwandi taluka only 40 have been given water connections by the BMC.
According to Section 288 of the BMC Act, 130 MLD of water has to be supplied to the villages. Locals say of the 40 villages that have been given connections, the BMC has disconnected connections to 30 over pending bills.
“Doesn’t the BMC give time to five star hotels to pay their bills which run into crores? Why couldn’t they give us some time?” said Haribhau Khade, panchayat samiti member. The locals also say that till 2006 there were no state transport buses in the area. Also, there is very little or no health care and educational facilities.
Locals think all resources in their neighbourhood are being siphoned off to benefit people in the cities, and in the process they are being displaced repeatedly in the process.
“We have been displaced at least four times as these huge pipelines kept needing more and more space,” Khade said.
While water from Thane is piped to Mumbai, people near the dams have to fetch water from sources that are more than two kilometres away. Also, instead of providing irrigation to local farms, mainly rice, for which the Bhatsa dam was initially meant, water is given away to industries.
“We have to walk at least one kilometre to the nearest BMC chowkie, where there is a tap, to fill water. Several women come with children in tow to fill water as there is no one in the house to look after them,” said Vaishali Patil, a villager.