Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pay mafia, get water

Pay mafia, get water

For the past 13 years the residents of Byatarayanapura have been paying their water bills to a local mafia and not the government. Both BBMP and BWSSB feign ignorance

Aditi Soni
Posted On Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 01:01:27 AM

Unlike in many parts of Bangalore, the residents of Byatarayanapura get uninterrupted water supply. Yet, for the past 13 years they have not paid their water bills.

No, it’s not because they are enjoying a freebie. Instead they dole out a constantly varying monthly amount to a shadowy mafia, widely believed to enjoy political patronage.

It all started in 1995. From 1995 to 2005, water supply was under City Municipal Corporation (CMC), who used to supply water 24X7 but never charged a single penny in return. Instead, it was the water mafia who took money from the residents.
With more than four lakh houses paying an average of Rs 45 each (this amount varies according to the goondas’ demands), the monthly collection amounts to Rs 1.80 crore.

After 2005, water connection and supply came under Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), but the situation persisted. The residents even approached BBMP officials who promised to look into the matter and take action by November 2007. The residents, quite predictably, are still waiting for some action.

With BWSSB taking charge six months ago, the situation seems to have worsened. The BBMP had handed over 319 bore wells to BWSSB in Byatrayanapura.

According to them however, a survey is to be done on the total water connections available in that area. “I filed an RTI through which I got to know that there are only 4,733 legal connections in the area,” said Jagadish. According to BWSSB officials, there are approximately four lakh water connections. Why this discrepancy in numbers? BWSSB officials refused to comment on this issue.

“Every month, the mafia stops the supply of water for about two days, an indication that it is time to pay up,” a resident said. He also said that there was no fixed time for the cut and it could happen any time during the month.

“And if we refuse to give them money they threaten to cut our water supply,” he added.

The BWSSB, incidentally, has not paid salaries to its employees in the area for the past three months. Recently, the employees went on a strike leaving residents without water for more than two days.

“Earlier, these water men used to get their salaries from both BWSSB and the water mafia. But since BWSSB has not collected money from us, they are running short of funds now,” said a resident.

On their part, BWSSB officials said it was too early for them to start giving water bills. “It’s just been six months since we have taken charge. It will take some time for us to finish the survey and start collecting revenue,” said M Kempayya, Assistant Executive Engineer, BWSSB.

According to BWSSB, the maintenance cost in Byatrayanapura amounts to Rs 22, 41,772 (approx). But the total revenue collected by the department has been almost zilch.

Local MLA Krishna Byre Gowda when queried on the issue claimed complete ignorance. “No one has ever brought such a thing to my notice. If I knew, I would have surely looked into the matter.”

About water bills, he thought that was BWSSB’s responsibility and should be addressed by them.


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