Water riots

The struggle for water continues in drought-hit Gujarat

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2001

Last year the police fired upon people protesting against government inaction in dealing with the water crisis in Falla village of Jamnagar district. This fortnight, the story repeated itself in Rajkot. Eight people were injured when police intervened to stop protesters from immolating themselves. A people's action group called Deshpremi had given an ultimatum to the district authorities to solve the water problem or face direct action. About 5,000 protesters turned violent and pelted stones on the police who then fired on the protesters.

C L Kotak of the Swadhay movement says that the riots and protests have become commonplace. In Rajkot, water contractors are making a killing by selling water at a very steep price. "They sell 12,000 litres of water for Rs 450 and make close to Rs 1 lakh every month," says Kotak. Many farmers around Rajkot district have turned water suppliers as they find it more lucrative. The contractors buy the water from these farmers and sell it in the city.

The municipal authority of Rajkot city supplies water only three days a week. "The municipal authorities have no option but to depend on contractors for supplying water," says Kotak. Rushabh Hemani, a resident of Rajkot who also works on rainwater harvesting says: "The government is promoting the contractors. The trend to supply water from the villages to the city is further depleting groundwater sources." As the water crisis intensifies, it seems the government has once again failed to learn from past mistakes.

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