Days after state rural development minister Pankaja Munde was roundly criticised for saying that the supply of water to breweries and distilleries in Maharashtra’s drought-hit areas need not be halted if it comes from stock reserved for them, HT can reveal that her husband Amit Palve is the director of Radico Distillery in Aurangabad, which gets water from the Jayakwadi dam. In fact, Munde herself was on the board of directors of the distillery until July 2014, a few months before the assembly elections.
The latest controversy involving Munde comes just a day after she was criticized for tweeting an ill-judged selfie during her tour of drought-stricken Latur.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Tuesday alleged that Munde said there was no need to stop supplying water to breweries and distilleries because of her husband’s association with a distillery. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “Her husband is working as a full-time director of the distillery while she herself was on the board of directors until 2014. As such, it was her personal interest that was behind her opposition to cutting the water supply of such industries,” Malik said. He also said that Pankaja’s husband uses the name Amit Palwe in political circles, but goes by Charudutta Palwe when conducting business. “There is something fishy in this which they need to clarify,” Malik added.
State BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye refused to comment on the NCP’s allegation but claimed that Munde had been misquoted by the media. “She was misquoted by the media on Saturday. She wanted to say that not supplying water to these industries would adversely affect their business and cause them to shut down, ultimately bringing unemployment to residents of Beed and Osmanabad,” Upadhye said.
Last week, while almost all political parties, including the Shiv Sena, had said that water supply to breweries and distilleries should be stopped owing to the acute water shortage in the region, Munde had objected to the demand. She said that water reserves were divided into three categories — water for drinking, agriculture and industries. “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 the supply. But if they are using water from the stock reserved for drinking or agriculture then these units should be closed down,” she said. Her remarks came soon after state water resources minister Girish Mahajan said the government was considering cutting the amount of water supplied to distilleries and breweries.
Munde did not respond to text messages sent by HT. For now, the Aurangabad collector Nidhi Pande has imposed 20% water cuts for distilleries and breweries until April 30.