Between 8.30 and 9.30 every morning, the 752 slumdwellers living near Wadala Bridge fill large drums and buckets with water for their daily chores — free of charge.
This illegal water connection is over a year old, rigged up by puncturing an underground BMC pipe and attaching a makeshift plastic tube, with a rudimentary knob regulating the flow of water. A paver block is used to hide the flow of water.
Civic authorities and Wadala residents say the mechanics of the racket are rounded off by wooden planks fitted with wheels, used to move the drums and buckets — this particular slum sucks out about 2.1 million litres of BMC water every month without paying for it.
Residents say the problem persists despite regular complaints to the ward office and the police. They say that while the civic body has imposed a 15 per cent water cut across the city, it hasn’t done much to stem the 25 per cent that Mumbai loses due to illegal water connections, leakage and pilferage.
“We have tried to cut this connection many times but we’re helpless because those slum dwellers threaten to commit suicide. If we cut the main line, it will choke off water supply to all the residents of that area,” said R.C. Prabhu, assistant engineer (Maintenance), F North Ward.
And the police say they have extended full co-operation to the BMC, which hasn’t even approached them for help.
“I’ve assured the water department officials of complete police protection whenever they plan to cut the illegal connection. But they’ve never approached us. This being a civic matter, it’s they who have to take action — we can only help them with protection,” said Sunil Deshmukh, senior police inspector, Matunga police station.
The furious residents have given up all hope. “For all the taxes that we pay regularly, we get water cuts — and these slumdwellers get free water simply by threatening to commit suicide. Can we escape taxes as well if we make a similar
threat?” said Rahul Daga, Wadala resident and chief complainant.