Pune’s water tanker mafia: How Brahma Emerald County residents triumphed in their fight for water
Brahma Emerald County in Kausarbaug, Kondhwa, is a society built on a slope with 352 flats in 8 buildings. Everyday, empty 20 litre cans are neatly arranged outside the door of every society member, waiting for a refill of water. This may be an odd sight for many, but the empty cans tell the story of the residents’ fight for water.The society, till date, receives most of its water from tankers sent by the builder after it won a court case against him for not providing the basic amenity.
Habib Patel, chairman of Brahma Emerald County, said, “We get 60,000 litres to 70,000 litres of water from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) water line. The deficit is fulfilled by Ajay Agarwal, the builder. The society requires 2.5 lakh litres of water everyday.”
Since 2009, the society has been receiving 20 litres water cans everyday from the builder for drinking water.
Armeen Baig, a resident of the society for six years, said, “Initially, we were unaware of the problem. We had accepted this erratic water supply as a way of life. The 20 litre can is enough for my family of five, but during summers, there is a need for more water.”
The project, which began in 2006, was completed in 2009. The society was formed in 2012.
“When the flats were completed, 20 litre water cans were delivered at our doorstep everyday and the builder assured us that we will soon receive a source of regular water supply. The builder constantly suggested forming a society, but we kept asking about missing amenities, with an emphasis on basic amenities like water. He promised us that he will get us water within three months,” added Patel.
However, once the society was established, the builder, Brahma corp, withdrew from the affairs of the society. “When we quizzed him about the water supply, he directed us to go to PMC, stating that we were paying taxes to them and hence, it was the duty of the civic body to supply the society with water.”
Prepared for war
In 2010, with the help of the Right To Information Act 2005, Patel sourced all the information regarding the project and also found a legal undertaking, commonly known as a water affidavit.It signed by Ajay’s father, Ram Agarwal, Brahma builders, now Brahma corp.
According to Patel, it is a two page legal document which read, “This land (Survey no 11, 12, 30, hissa number 1 and 2, Kondhwa, belongs to me, and this land is at the farthest end of the waterline network zone of PMC and on the higher level, where the PMC water supply has less pressure. I will supply water at my own cost without any complaint to PMC.”
When Habib approached the builder, he dismissed the affidavit as merely a piece of paper. This piece of paper, according to Habib, proved to be his downfall when the society filed a consumer case in August 2012 against the builder. The verdict was in favour of the residents.
The builder petitioned the state commission, but he lost again. The state consumer authority asked the developer to continue supplying water to the society as per affidavit. The builder was also asked to shoulder the cost of water till PMC arranged proper infrastructure for water supply and till the next order from the commission.
Society residents had also filed an appeal before the commission earlier this year, requesting that Bramha corp be asked to continue supplying water as per the affidavit. This too, was granted by the commission.
Sachin Harsule, Ajay Agarwal’s legal representative, responded to the issue and said, “The builder has given an undertaking only to make necessary arrangement of water supply infrastructure for the project, which he has already made by installing the required infrastructure for the society to receive water. The builder is not liable to pay for the society’s water supply. Moreover, the procedure of taking subject undertaking is for new PMC limits and it is not applicable for old PMC Limits. The project is within old PMC limits.”
He added, “PMC is regularly collecting water charges and taxes from all the members of the society. PMC being a statutory body, is entirely responsible for the society’s water supply.”