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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Jolted by spate of attacks on its officials by water protesters, civic body will install sirens in all 24 ward offices that will be sounded if any such threat is perceived

The city’s water crisis has meant sharp criticism for BMC officials from several quarters, with some protesters going to the extent of vandalising civic property and even attacking Hydraulic Department officials. Not wanting to put anyone at risk, the administration has decided, quite literally, to sound off its employees every time a threat is perceived.
Within two weeks, the BMC plans to install sirens at all 24 of its ward offices which, when sounded, will kick-start a security operation.
“As soon as the siren goes off, security officers will be divided into two teams. One team will rush to close down all main gates of that office and another team will concentrate on catching those who have entered the premises,” explained Joint Chief Security Officer (Administration) S D Kulkarni.
“It will be done in a systematic way, so no civic employee is assaulted or humiliated. We are still working on the plan and getting details of each ward’s topographical location,” he said, adding that this will alert employees and security personnel so that damage to property is also minimised.
Another senior official said the BMC – which recently wrote to the police for extra security cover – has decided to hire private security personnel.
“We have a shortage of 500 security personnel; these positions will be filled up by private security guards. We are also identifying sensitive ward offices, where extra security personnel will be deployed.
“They will alert us if anyone is likely to damage property or assault BMC employees by sounding off the siren,” said another senior official.
Sainath Rajadhyaksh, general secretary of BMC Engineers’ Association Union, welcomed the move.
“BMC engineers are vulnerable, so protesters target them. Our morale is low because of assault and face-blackening incidents. We can’t work in such an atmosphere. Targeted staffers become the butt of jokes in their locality,” he said.
Dec 22: Activists from the NGO Swabhimaan attacked Assistant Engineer Tarang Kumar inside the K/West ward office and blackened his face with ink (pictured below)
Dec 2: Nitesh Rane and Swabhimaan activists entered the BMC Headquarters to protest water shortage and threatened BMC employees. The police resorted to lathi charge
Nov 17: Shiv Sena corporator Mangala Kate; her husband Tukaram Kate, who is a former corporator; and 14 Shiv Sainiks vandalised the hydraulic engineer’s office in the BMC Headquarters


Armed with 28 laws to curb water theft, BMC hungry for more

Did you know that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) could have you booked for wasting water and disconnect a water connection if a leakage isn’t repaired within 24 hours of it being noticed? All this, without police presence or prior permission from the State.
You have reason to be surprised. For, it would seem that with such powers, the BMC would have been able to stop water theft and wastage of water in the city and curb the current shortage to a large extent. Under the BMC Act (see box), officials of the water department are provided with at least 28 laws that give them the right to take action miscreants.
However, despite this, the civic body is now asking for more powers from the State to ‘deal with this time of crisis’.
In the last one month the city has seen several protests by people over the lack of water supply in their homes. In one case, a protester died and in another the face of a hydraulic engineer was blackened by political goons.
Keeping these in mind, civic officials now want police and State to book those protesters who attack civic officials.
“What we want from the State is more powers so that our actions aren’t challenged,” said a senior officials of the BMC’s water department.
But, an ex-hydraulic engineer, recalls a time when the BMC did a good job of saving water with the powers it had.
Not wishing to be named, the ex-engineer who worked with the BMC in the early ‘80s, said, “There was a time when the water department had their squads who would keep regular checks on water pipelines and removed every single encroachment themselves – not depending on the encroachment removal cell.”
He told of when a corporator in the eastern suburbs allowed a public works contractor in his area to construct a temporary shed near a pipeline.
“The next day, water department officials on their daily round noticed the shed and without any intimation, demolished the shed.
“No one meddled with our department and the water supply was very smooth in those days,” claimed this officer.
Act 274/275 gives the BMC powers to force the owner of a building or the premises where the water connection is, to make available water to all tenants regularly. The owner is also supposed to get the water tank cleaned
Act 278 (1) gives civic officials the power to serve notice against those who misuse water, waste it
Act 278 (2) allows BMC to disconnect a water connection within 24 hours if the pipeline is not repaired and wastage is not stopped
Act 279 (c) allows them to cut off water connections for the leakages and notice ignored under section 278 of the Act
Act 282 allows the civic body to recover charges with penalty from those who use residential connections for commercial purposes
Additionally, under section 379, 435, 425 of the Indian Penal Code, the BMC can register a case with police against those involved in water theft. Police can book cases under the said section and levy a fine of up to Rs 5,000. Those found guilty would also face imprisonment

Thursday, December 24, 2009


8 manhandle engineer, ransack ward office
Nitasha Natu | TNN

Mumbai: Eight activists of an NGO, Swabhimaan, were arrested by the Andheri police on Tuesday, after they blackened a civic engineer’s face and trashed his office at the K-East ward. The activists were protesting against water theft and illegal connections in Gundavali, Andheri East. Swabhimaan is run by Congress revenue minister Narayan Rane’s son, Nitesh.
“Around 200-250 activists had gathered at the K-East ward office, looking for ward officer Ranjit Dhakane, but he was out. They then entered the office of assistant engineer (hydraulic department) Tarang Kumar and argued with him. The activists had brought black ink cans along. They manhandled Kumar and smeared ink on his face, before damaging phones and PCs. They also smashed table glass and shot the entire incident on video. We have booked them for rioting and assaulting a government servant,’’ a police official said.
According to the activists, they had met Dhakne and Kumar on Monday and showed them videos of water being sold illegally at Gundavali. “There are residents who haven’t had a water connection for over three years now. In the same area, the water mafia has obtained multiple connections and illegally sell water. The water mafia has occupied vacant houses and stored large drums of water. It is sold on per bucket basis and rates are fixed,’’ said Agnelo Fernandez, Mumbai head of the NGO.
Dhakane had promised to visit the area on Tuesday. But when he did not turn up, the activists landed at the K-East ward office. Policemen were present at the ward office, both on Monday and Tuesday.
Additional municipal commissioner Anil Diggikar told TOI, “We will meet the police commissioner to find out if protection can be provided to our hydraulic department staff.’’


Municipal employees at Andheri went on a strike on Wednesday to protest the assault on a water department engineer by a group of people on Tuesday. They are now demanding security for water department officials across the city.
The protestors, who were agitating against the water shortage in the city, attacked engineer Tarang Kumar who was present in the water department at that time. They assaulted and blackened his face with ink. Angry ward staffers announced stop work on Wednesday and met the municipal commissioner Swadhin Kshatriya later in the day and demanded security for civic officials.
“We cannot work like this. With the water scarcity in the city, such instances may occur often. There should be some way out to counter such attacks,” said Sainath Rajadhyaksh, general secretary of Brihanmumbai Municipal Engineers Association Union. The civic chief has assured the engineers’ union that they will take the matter to a higher level to resolve the issue.
Senior officials from the water department will be meeting top police officers to study the requirement of the police force. “Even the police department is short staffed. They will first assess the exact security requirement. Priority will be given to those wards where the water crisis is acute,” said a senior civic official.
Engineers from the water department were supported by AGNI, a non-governmental organisation. “We have extended our support to these engineers as they are being made scapegoats. Why don’t these so-called activists try such tactics with corporators who are allegedly involved in water tanker mafias?” said James John, AGNI member from Andheri.
The state has passed The Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2009 to book people who attack doctors and other medical workers. Municipal engineers want a similar law.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Water dept engineers to get police protection
Following the third incident of violence against a water dept employee on Tuesday, police will provide security at ward offices

In the third incident of violence in less than two months against an employee of the BMC’s water department, the face of an engineer was blackened by 200-odd residents who held an agitation outside the K-East Ward office at Andheri (E) on Tuesday. The incident which was prompted by the water crisis, has led to the municipal commissioner seeking police protection for water dept employees.
The incident which saw water works engineer Tarang Kumar at the receiving end of the residents’ ire, has shocked the water department. The furious engineers of the western suburbs have decided to gather on Wednesday at the K-East Ward office, in a show of solidarity to protest the incident.
Just last month Hydraulic Engineer Dinesh Gondalia was assaulted at the BMC headquarters, and a few days later a pump operator from Deonar was assaulted in the eastern suburbs due to the water crisis.
So much so, Municipal Commissioner Swadhin Kshatriya has now asked Police Commissioner D Sivanandhan to provide security to the engineers of all the 24 civic wards, which he has agreed to.
“Our engineers cannot work under the pressure and are in constant fear of attacks,” said Anil Diggikar, additional municipal commissioner.
Meanwhile, water department engineers of western suburbs have decided not to work on Wednesday and gather at the Andheri office to show solidarity. “Enough is enough. We will seek justice. We are going to represent our case to the commissioner,” said an engineer.
“All the officers are very tense. They are working for the city. They are just employees of the organisation and are not policy makers. No one should take us for granted. We work relentlessly day and night but still incur the wrath of the people,” said Gondalia.
On Tuesday, the residents were agitating against the short supply as well as the illegal selling of water in their area. Furious that ward officer, Ranjit Dhakane, was not present even when he had been informed a day earlier, a few activists approached Tarang Kumar and blackened his face. An offence was registered against four activists who were later arrested by the Andheri police.
Joint Commissioner (Law and Order) Himanshu Roy confirmed the meeting with the municipal commissioner. He said that though the meeting was planned earlier, the issue was relevant as the incident happened the same day.
“We had a discussion and decided to give them protection,” said Roy.

Protesters blacken the face of an engineer at BMC’s hydraulic department at Andheri on Tuesday