In what could be a big reason of embarrassment for the Maharashtra government, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has declared Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and over a dozen of his cabinet colleagues as defaulters after they failed to clear their pending water bills running into lakhs. The chief minister has come under the BMC scanner with his official residence - Varsha bungalow, having unpaid dues for the months December 2016, October 2018 and September 2018 amount to Rs 7,44,891. Varsha, located in Malabar Hill area of Mumbai, has a total of six water connections.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister's Office released a statement, saying there was a difference between water bills of November 2018 and May 2019 that led Mumbai's Public Works Department (PWD) to verify the bill.
"The water bills of Varsha & other ministers' bungalow have been paid in Nov 2018. There was a difference between the water bills of Nov 2018 & May 2019 & that's why PWD is verifying the bill amount. As the verification process will be over, PWD will pay the bill," the statement read.
Clarification issued by PWD regarding claims of pending water bills of Varsha, other Minister houses.— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) June 24, 2019
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Apart from Fadnavis, the defaulters' list figure 17 other state ministers, including Sudhir Mungantiwar, Diwakar Rawte, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde, Ramdas Kadam and Eknath Shinde. While Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s ‘Devgari’ bungalow has defaulted on Rs 4,45,055 in water bills, Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde’s bungalow failed to pay Rs 35,033. Transport Minister Diwakar Rawte’s ‘Meghdoot’ bungalow didn’t clear Rs. 1.61 lakh dues.
Besides, the Maharashtra governments official guest house Sahyadri has also unpaid bills to the tune of Rs 12.04 lakh. According to the record, the Fadnavis government official residences owe Rs 8 crore to BMC for different other services, excluding water supply.
The revelation was made after activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh of NGO Adhikar Foundation initiated an RTI query, asking the BMC to reveal the waters bills of Fanavis’ bungalow and other ministers’ houses across Maharashtra.
The news comes at a time when Maharashtra is reeling under the impact of drought with several towns and villages facing severe water crisis across the state. The aggravating drought situation has hard the farming community most, forcing as many as 610 farmers to commit suicide between January and March alone. Although the state administration claims to have spent Rs. 8,946 crore on Jalyukt Shivar and completed work in 18,649 villages, water levels in the state dipped to an alarming 6.11 per cent.
Ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year, such issues like drought and pending water bills will give the opposition significant ammunition to corner the BJP-led coalition government in the state.