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.
THE LAWS BMC HAS ON ITS SIDE
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