The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the state government to release water to the Ujjani dam in drought-hit Solapur district, a demand for which the farmer, Bhaiyya Deshmukh, had been on hunger-strike at Azad Maidan for nearly two months.
Deshmukh is the man deputy CM Ajit Pawar mocked by asking whether he should urinate into the dam to fill it.
Turning down the state’s plea for more time, a division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice MS Sanklecha ordered that water be released within 24 hours to the low-lying dam, where the stock has depleted critically, affecting 500 sq km of agricultural land.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a farmers’ association, Mohol Taluka Bahu Udeshiya Shetkari, stating that the authorities were not implementing the provision for equitable water distribution.
The petition states that Ujjani is one of the biggest dams in the district and provides multipurpose benefits such as irrigation, hydroelectric power, and potable and industrial water supply among others.
According to the petitioners’ lawyer Madhav Chaudhary, the law mandates that water level of dams be maintained equally. However, the level of Ujjani is minus 30% of its capacity, he told the court.
The petitioners had been earlier asked to approach the water resources regulatory authority, which responded saying the state is yet to appoint staff to the positions concerned. The court has now asked the government pleader to take instructions from the chief secretary on the issue before the next hearing on Monday.