With half of Maharashtra, as of today, facing a drought and only 5.8 per cent water left in the entire state, the reply to an RTI has revealed that the residence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and those of other ministers too, have unpaid water bills running into lakhs of rupees.
According to the reply to the RTI, the Chief Minister has a total of six connections registered to his official residence - a bungalow called 'Varsha' - and his dues are Rs 7.4 lakh
Health Minister Eknath Shinde and PWD minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule have three connections each, with dues of Rs 2.24 lakh and Rs 6.14 lakh respectively.
"The Chief Minister's residence has dues pending from December 2016 where the bill figure has reached Rs 3 lakh. Total dues are over Rs 7 lakh for the Chief Minister and there are other ministers as well," Shakeel Ahmed, the RTI activist, told NDTV.
The Chief Minister's Office has responded to this matter and said the Public Works Department (PWD) would verify these bills and is in constant touch with civic authorities to resolve the matter. The CMO said bills would be paid after verification.
"This is the bungalow where I am staying but PWD is responsible for clearing the bills and I would let them know. When we ask citizens to pay their bills, we are also responsible for the same," Vinod Tawde, assembly affairs minister who has approximately Rs 1.55 lakhs due, said.
A drought was declared in the state in October last year.
In the state assembly, co-operation minister Subash Deshmukh, while answering the query, said 12,631 people committed suicide between 2015 and 2019. That is, on average, a shocking eight people per day.
If the Chief Minister's bungalow's water usage is calculated, then, on average it consumes 1,317 units of water in a month, with one unit equal to 1,000 litres. According to NDTV's calculations, the Chief Minister's residence therefore needs nearly 44,000 litres of water every day.
That figure is the equivalent of nine tankers carrying 5,000 litres of water when, on average, drought-affected areas with populations of 1,500 people receive one tanker every two days.
The opposition has now also raised questions.
"It is not about the bill but the misuse of water when citizens are struggling and cattle are struggling for every drop," Vijay Wadettiwar, the leader of the opposition, said.