Latur district in Maharashtra has recently been affected by a severe drought and this has led to speculations that the situation could escalate into a water riot. This is the reason that the district administration has opted to start a war room from where it will be taking stock of the situation – and be on the lookout for possible law and order problems – in the city. The civic administration of Latur has already enforced Section 144 with the aim of avoiding any disturbing incident and making sure that water is supplied without any problem whatsoever.
Water Requirement in Latur
Approximately five lakh people live in Latur. Every day, it needs around 20 million litres of water. However, the situation is such now that they are getting water only once in a month.
What does the Section 144 say?
As per Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, not more than five people can assemble at a location. The law has been imposed so that no violence can take place near the water tanks owned and operated by the civic body of Latur. However, as has been revealed by the Revenue Minister of Maharashtra, Eknath Khadse, this law is applicable only in the vicinity of the said tanks, which are six in number. All of these are located outside the city.
Why was the decision taken?
According to Khadse, the police had received complaints that there were some cases of violence in areas where the water is being stored. Only after this was the section imposed, and that too, as a cautionary step. Almost 200 water tankers have presently been deployed in Latur. Local authorities have to share the onus of keeping an eye on the present situation in the region. In fact, the civic body of Latur had been given the necessary powers to make sure that they could take all the steps necessary to ensure consistent supply of water.
The District Collector of Latur feels that steps were taken to make sure that water filling in the said tanks could be regulated properly. The situation was slowly becoming precarious before the Section 144 came into effect, as some political figures in the region had attempted to block roads with the ulterior motive of disrupting the filling up of the six water tanks.
Steps taken to prevent illegal incidents
One of the common problems in such scenarios is the illegal lifting of water or water being transferred to various parts of the city. The district administration has already taken steps to ensure that criminal acts can be nipped in the bud by increasing the number of night rounds done by police. The authorities have also pressed into service small boats. This has been done near the water reservoirs so that proper vigil can be maintained in those areas.
Hand pumps gone dry
There are already some hand pumps in Latur installed by the state government. Apart from that, there are at least 1500 hand pumps owned by private entities. In the initial stages, people had attempted to get water from there. However, the owners had to turn them away since those pumps had become dry as well. According to the owners, it took a lot to convince the people that all was not well with their hand pumps as well – something that is always easier said than done in such trying circumstances.
Why has the drought happened?
This is the third consecutive year that Latur has seen insufficient rainfall. This has only made the situation worse and led to an unmitigated water crisis. The district has been affected as well. Incidentally, this happens to be the home district of late Vilasrao Desmukh, who was once the chief minister of Maharashtra.
How is the present situation?
The Section 144 has come into place from 11 March and will stay in effect for the rest of the month. At present, the Manjara Dam has totally dried up and this is why water was being brought in from the reserves at Arvi, Malkonji and Dongargaon. While the authority is making its best efforts to salvage the situation, one really wishes them all the success with the hope that the hapless and suffering people of Latur come out of this predicament as soon as possible.