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Brawl over water tanker supplies results in casualty

Howrah, India

The city of Howrah in West Bengal has been facing water shortages, resulting in high levels of regional resource insecurity spurring on civil unrest. Kazipara Village demonstrated this trend on 19 June 2012. Here, Sirajuddin Mullick was killed by his neighbours over water being distributed by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) tanker.

On that day, the Puddapukur Water Treatment Plant was closed for repairs and this resulted in a need to distribute water. The HMC distributed water to the area via tankers; however, the rush of residents resulted in large queues and crowds.

It is reported that Sirajuddin Mullick was at the front of the queue for water when jostling occurred and he was killed by his neighbours, who punched and hit him with iron rods and bricks.

The backdrop

Water riots have peaked for years during the summer months as water levels fall to their lowest. When coupled with a long dry season, water becomes scarce and tensions build.

The HMC department suggests that since the creation of a second water treatment plant in Puddapukur by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) in 2006, 40–70 million gallons of water per day (mgd) can be treated, essentially increasing water capacity opportunities for the region. However, it is reported that optimising this capacity is unlikely, as only 55 (mgd) of water is generated during the monsoon season (The Times of India, 2012).

Along with this, due to low water levels of the Hooghly River which supplies the Puddapukur Water Treatment Plant, siltation blockages often occur at low tide and garbage and plastic pollution often block the intake jetties, causing the Plant to be shut down for maintenance (The Times of India (2), 2012). Along with root problems of water supply, reports describe hand pumps within Howrah city as malfunctioning, then requiring water tankers to distribute water (The Times of India (2), 2012).

The event

Due to the plant being shut down for maintenance, the HMC respond by organising water tankers that deliver inadequate supply levels of water every few days. Residents queue to access the water before it runs out, and this regular scenario often leads to altercations (The Telegraph, India, 2013).

According to the Times of India (2012), the HMC tanker reportedly arrived at 4.30pm to deliver an insufficient amount of water to queuing residents. Civic officials, deployed to keep order, left once the tanker stopped its service. Locals began jostling which, in turn, led into a brawl between youths and the victim, Sirajuddin Mullick.

It is reported that Mr Mullick did not step aside when asked by the youths; others suggested he pushed forward (The Times of India (2), 2012). Another eyewitness report states that Mr Mullick and his younger brother came to the aid of their sister, Anisha Khatoon, who was pushed out of the way by three youths (The Telegraph, India (2), 2012). The brawl resulted in Mr Mullick being severely beaten and attacked with bricks and iron rods. The victim’s older brother, Nasiruddin Mullick, tried to intervene and was also beaten. Both were taken to hospital in Kolkata where Sirajuddin Mullick was pronounced dead (Chakraborti, 2014).

Early intervention opportunities


  • Transparent discussions with citizens about the water treatment plants and how they operate, with information on what is being done is required.
  • River dredging to ensure adequate flow and to alleviate the intake jetties from blockages, especially in the low tide of the Hooghly River.
  • Waste and recycling disposal schemes, such as sediment traps up river, are additionally needed to ensure blockading of the intake jetty is reduced.
  • Hand pumps and pipelines need to be repaired and/or replaced to meet minimal demand.
  • A permanent solution should be found in, instead of deploying tankers year after year.

During event

  • Higher numbers of civic officials should be deployed with tankers delivering water to ensure order can be established and the civic officials do not feel threatened.
  • An adequate supply of water should be sent, perhaps with pre-determined allowances that can be used, for example, with a rationing stamp book so everyone has a fair and equal share of water.


  • The pumps that were installed with the original creation of the Puddapukur Plant in 1984 need to be replaced for efficient drawing of water from the Hooghly River.
  • Although the addition of the new, more powerful pumps were added by the CMDA to the same intake point as the original HMC pumps increased the efficiency of water drawn, they do not solve the issue that when the intake jetty gets clogged with silt or plastic pollution the plant must be shut down and costly efforts are used to clean the jetty. This would be rectified by installing a separate intake jetty along the Hooghly River.
  • Plans should be arranged for a new intake jetty to be established, although there are debates on the new intake jetty but this will affect the Indian Botanic Gardens and thus plans have yet to be established.
  • New pipelines to transport the water as identified in a report by Basu (2016) and The Telegraph, India (3) (2014) are needed due to the new intake pumps being so powerful they burst the original pipelines.
  • If an additional jetty is non-optional than further actions need to be taken, in the form of a water holding facility or an underground reservoir.
  • A public apology is required for the handling of the situation that has been allowed to continue for years and result in multiple casualties.

Key themes

Poverty, government, unrest, faulty supply infrastructure, poor waste management.


  1. The Times of India, 2012. Howrah thirsts for water [Kolkata]. The Times of India, 13 November 2012.
  2. The Times of India (2), 2012. 18-year-old boy killed in brawl over water [Kolkata]. The Times of India, 19 June 2012.
  3. The Telegraph, India., 2013. Death by water. The Telegraph, India, 3 May 2012.
  4. The Telegraph, India (2), 2012. Teen killed in clash over water. The Telegraph, India, 20 June 2012.
  5. Basu, A., 2016. Water crisis in pockets – faulty laying of pipelines to blame for low pressure. The Telegraph, India, 7 May 2016.
  6. The Telegraph, India (3), 2014. Water, still a trickle. The Telegraph, India, 18 July 2014.
  7. Chakraborti, S., 2014. A day after the brawl over water in which Sirajuddin Mullick, an 18-year-old boy was killed in Howrah;s Mollapara area under Shibpur police station, the area did not get any water for a second day. The Times of India, 20 June 2012.


Brawl over water tanker supplies results in one casualty