This Article is From Apr 10, 2013

Victory for Solapur farmer: court directs Maharashtra government to release water into dam

Mumbai: Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar may have ridiculed Prabhakar Deshmukh, the farmer from Solapur district who had been protesting for two months asking the state government to release water into the Ujani Dam, but the Bombay High Court seems to have agreed with him.

While hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) yesterday, the court ordered the Maharashtra government to release water into the dam within 24 hours. The dam supplies water to Solapur, one of the worst drought-hit districts in the western region of the state.

At a rally last week, Mr Pawar dismissed the farmer's two-month-long protest and sarcastically asked if leaders should urinate to supply water to the dam. "There is this person from Solapur, sitting on hunger strike for 64 days demanding water be released from the dam. But where are we going to get water from? Should we urinate? And when we don't have water to drink, it's hard to pass urine as well," he said.

After facing severe criticism for his crass remarks, the politician said it was the "biggest mistake of my political life."

Dissatisfied with Mr Pawar's apology, Prabhakar Deshmukh took his protest to the Chief Minister's house yesterday.  He is however elated about the Bombay High Court's order. 

"Ajit Pawar now there is no need to urinate. God has spoken through the High Court. He has blessed us. Now Ujani dam will have water," he told NDTV.

The High Court's order came in response to a PIL filed independently by a Solapur-based activist, Shankarrao Sathe. The PIL says that the Ujani dam gets water from the Bhima River which starts from Karjat in the Western Ghats. Between the source of the river and the dam, there are 20-22 smaller dams, most of them in Pune district.

However, the PIL adds, in violation of Maharashtra's water regulatory laws - which state that water should be equally distributed - the smaller dams were not releasing water downstream to the Ujani Dam.

Without naming anyone, the PIL alleged that "powerful politicians" were "diverting" water to the Pune district. Coincidentally, Pune district also happens to be the Pawar family's bastion.

Relieved by the order, Mr Sathe said, "This decision is 100% correct. For the past six months farmers and the public have been crying out for water."

The court has also asked the government to submit a report on Monday.