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Mumbai residents seek water, get caned

Last updated on: December 3, 2009 18:49 IST

Mumbai residents seek water, get caned

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Mumbai's water woes claimed a life and left several injured on Thursday when police baton charged demonstrators protesting the cut in water supply to residential areas, in front of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation headquarters.

Vishal Dholakia (43), one among the few hundred protesters, allegedly died of head injuries at the G T Hospital in south Mumbai, close to the police headquarters, though the authorities attributed his death to heart attack. Superintendent of G T Hospital A V Kulkarni said Dholakia did not have any injury marks on his body.

Hundreds of people from the city and the suburbs had collected in front of BMC headquarters around noon under the banner of 'Swabhiman', an NGO run by Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane's son Nitesh, to protest the 15 per cent cut introduced in the wake of poor rainfall during monsoon.


Image: Police personnel cane demonstrators
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Red flags and slogans for water

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Waving red flags and shouting slogans against the BMC, the agitators pulled down the barricades in their bid to barge into the civic body's headquarters.

"The crowd turned unruly and we used minimal of force to control them. They engaged in vandalism outside BMC office and could have gone out of control if allowed inside," Additional Commissioner of Police R K Padmanabhan said.

Image: The protest rally

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One dead, several injured

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Asked what could possibly be the reason behind Dholakia's death, hospital superintendent Kulkarni said it would be clear only after a post-mortem examination was done.

He said nine of the wounded demonstrators were undergoing treatment at the hospital but refused to comment on their condition. ACP Padmanabhan, however, claimed none of them had any serious injury.


Image: A protestor gets the cane

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Ugly politics behind the protest?

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Nitesh Rane has, meanwhile, been arrested, police said, adding he was being produced before a local court.

Close watchers of the BMC politics said the root of the incident lay in the recent victory of Shiv Sena candidate Shraddha Jadhav in the Mayoral elections in which she defeated the Congress nominee.

Narayan Rane, the powerful Maharashtra minister for revenue and a former Shiv Sena chief minister, was upset over the victory of Jadhav and was said to have mobilised his supporters for the protest demonstration, which turned ugly.

Image: Police personnel cane violent protestors

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Less rainfall = water cuts

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The Shiv Sena-controlled BMC had first proposed to affect 30 per cent water cut for the whole of Mumbai and its suburbs due to scanty rainfall to enable its lakes and reservoirs retain water till the advent of next monsoon.

However, under public pressure, the civic body slashed the cut for residential areas to 15 per cent.

Image: A protestor tries to evade the cane

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'What sin have common people in Mumbai committed?'

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Nitesh said his organisation would not allow the mayor, BMC commissioner and corporators to move around if the cut was not rescinded.

"People of Mumbai are suffering as they get less water. The water supply should be normalised. 'Matoshree' (the bungalow of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray) gets 24-hour water supply. What sin have common people in Mumbai committed to get erratic and reduced water supply," he told media persons before his arrest.

Nitesh was later produced before a metropolitan magistrate in south Mumbai, which granted him bail on a surety of Rs 5,000.


Image: Police personnel detain a protestor

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