At least four people died while about 100 others fell sick in Hyderabad Tuesday after drinking contaminated water.
Earlier reports had put the number of those who died at five.
The incident in Bholakpur area in Secunderabad sent panic among the people while the government swung into action after the public outcry by ordering suspension of an official and announcing Rs.200,000 compensation to the kin of each of the deceased.
Taking a serious note of the incident, the state human rights commission asked the government to submit a detailed report by 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Tension prevailed in the Bholakpur colony as hundreds of people took to the streets following the death of four persons since Tuesday morning. Police also had a tough time controlling angry crowds at four hospitals, where about 100 people – a majority of them children – were admitted.
Officials of Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB), which supplies drinking water to the city, said it was a case of suspected contamination.
Backward Classes Welfare Minister Mukesh Goud, who is supervising the relief operations, told reporters this evening that the government was suspending the board manager David Raju.
The government also ordered an inquiry by a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official. The minister announced that the officer had been asked to submit the report in three days. “We will take stern action against those officials whose negligence led to the tragic incident,” he said.
The minister also announced the compensation to the kin of those who died.
Water bottles containing polluted water supplied through pipelines were kept near the body of a woman at her house as her relatives and neighbours staged angry protests against the authorities.
Raising slogans against the water board officials, angry residents also took to the streets in Bholakpur and adjoining areas, demanding immediate arrest of the officials responsible for the tragedy.
“See how polluted this water is,” said a resident while showing a bottle containing highly contaminated water.
Angry residents also pelted stones on the car of Secunderabad MP Anjan Kumar Yadav. A local official of the water board ran to safety when a number of youths cornered him accusing him of ignoring their complaints of contaminated water supply.
Protesters also gathered outside the office of the board and entered into heated arguments with the police. They alleged that they had been getting contaminated water for the last three days and the authorities did not act on their complaints.
According to the locals, water contaminated with worms, ants, pollutants and mud particles was coming from the taps on Monday. Several people reported sick late Monday, complaining of loose motions, vomiting and fever.
The government directed that the supply of water through pipelines be immediately stopped. The board is making arrangements to supply water through tankers.
Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who is away in Shimla, ordered an inquiry into the incident. He directed officials to take immediate steps to ensure supply of safe drinking water.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, who is abroad, conveyed his sympathies to the families of the victims.
Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi visited the Gandhi Hospital and called on those undergoing treatment.
Bholakpur, in the heart of the city, had several complaints of contaminated water supply in the past. Residents alleged that sewage often gets mixed with drinking water as the sewerage and water pipelines run parallel or even cross each other.