Neat solution: HC wants Maha govt to cut breweries' water supply for 40 days
The fate of 17 breweries in the parched Marathwada region of Maharashtra hangs in the balance, after the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court instructed the state government to disconnect their water supply.
Hearing a PIL filed by Sanjay Kale, a social worker from Kopargaon in Ahmednagar district, the Division Bench comprising Justice SS Shinde and Justice Sangitrao Patil directed the state government to cut the water supply.
The court has given the government time till Friday, 22 April, to clear its stand on whether the water supply will be cut for 40 days, till the onset of the monsoon. If the government fails to clear its stand, the court will pass orders to this effect.
This is the second time in a week that the judiciary had taken the Devendra Fadnavis government to task over the wastage ofwater. Last week, the Bombay High Court had ordered the Indian Premier League cricket matches scheduled to be held in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur after 30 April out of the state.
Govt's plan not enough
All the industries in Marathwada get around four million litres per day (MLD) water from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).
However, in the course of the hearing, the government acknowledged the dire situation in the region due to drought, particularly the fact that the Jayakwadi dam has almost dried up.
It informed the court that plans have already been made to ensure smooth water supply for the next 105 days.
Water supply to liquor industries has been cut down by 20%, while for the industries, the figure stands at 10%. This cut came into effect on 17 April, and would continue till 30 April.
But the court seemingly wasn't satisfied with this response.
The state government has also taken steps to ration water supply for domestic as well as industrial purposes. Cities like Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli and Pune are facing water cuts two to three days a week, while industries in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region are facing a water cut three days a week.
The pressure on the government to snap the water supply to water-intensive industries like breweries and sugar mills is rising. And it's not only coming from the Opposition Congress, but also the BJP's own ally, the Shiv Sena.
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray took a stern position on the matter, saying that breweries could not be prioritised for water supply when there is no drinking water for the people of Marathwada.
The job creation argument
An industrialist from Aurangabad, who did not wish to be named, said: "We are aware that the situation is grave in the state, and drastic measures need to be implemented for judicial distribution and consumption of water. However, snapping water supply to industries would not be the solution, as they provide employment to the people displaced by drought."
He said the manufacturing sector has already been hit hard by the acute water scarcity in the state, and a populist decision to cut off the water supply completely would make the situation even worse.
"The government and people making the demand should collect information on job creation by the industries using water. One can easily determine the number of jobs created per litre of water," the industrialist said.
Interestingly, the Division Bench reacted to a similar argument by observing that the jewellers in the state continued to pay their employees even during the strike last month, and that the breweries can afford to pay their employees for 40 days.
The state of breweries
In all, there are 17 breweries and distilleries in Marathwada, including Indian manufacturers such as United Breweries, the makers of Kingfisher beer, and multinational manufacturers like Carlsberg and SAB Miller. Of these, 11 units lie in Aurangabad district, while two each are in the Nanded, Latur and Osmanabad districts.
Overall, there are 129 breweries in Maharashtra. Of these, 99 manufacture beer, Indian Made Foreign Liquor and Indian liquor, while the rest are breweries connected to sugar mills.
A majority of breweries are situated in western Maharashtra districts such as Solapur, Ahmednagar and Pune, and the Nagpur district in Vidarbha.
According to the affidavit submitted by the state government in Aurangabad, there are 15 breweries in Solapur, 10 in Ahmednagar, seven in Pune and 13 in Nagpur.
None of these industries are currently located in Jalna, Beed, Parbhani and Hingoli districts of Marathwada.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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