Cooch Behar: Time was when the blue-blooded could say "I am monarch of all I survey/My right there is none to dispute".
Now, a descendant of the Cooch Behar royal family has written to the Trinamul-run municipality staking claim to right to free water.
Kumar Supriya Narayan, 26, is not seeking charity but asserting what he says is a right granted to his family through a letter written 68 years ago by V.P. Menon, the bureaucrat who helped Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel fulfil his mission to integrate India.
Supriya Narayan introduces himself as the grandson of Kumar Dwijendra Narayan, whose cousin Jagaddipendra Narayan was the king of the Cooch Behar princely state when it merged with India on August 28, 1949. Jagaddipendra Narayan, the brother of the exquisite princess Gayatri Devi, was effectively the last king of Cooch Behar.
Two days later, on August 30, Menon sent the letter to King Jagaddipendra Narayan. The seventh point of the purported letter says: ".... water supply will be provided free of charge to the main palace of Your Highness and family within the state." Nearly seven decades later, the water promise has come into play because the municipality has decided to start drinking water supply to the households of the town.
Each person in a household is entitled to 90 litres a day. Meters will be installed and plans are afoot to levy a charge if the quota is exceeded.
Supriya Narayan, who works as a clerk in the state labour department here, said: "I have written to the chairman, mentioning that we, being descendants of the royal family, are supposed to get water free of cost."
His grandfather, Kumar Dwijendra Narayan, whose name also figures on the list of royals in the letter sent by Menon, was a cousin of Gayatri Devi.
"King Jitendra Narayan - the father of Gayatri Devi and King Jagaddipendra Narayan - was my grandfather's uncle," Supriya Narayan said.
Supriya Narayan, who is also the secretary of the Consortium of Koch Royal Families, has said around five families are entitled to free water supply.
"It is not a question of money but it is a matter of promise. After the accord was signed, a number of issues were decided, ranging from allowances to the family members to ownership of land and other properties. Among these, there is a clause that mentions water supply. That is why I have mentioned it to the civic body before it implements the levy," he said.
Asked about the letter, Bhusan Singh, the civic chairman, said: "We do not have any proper evidence to identify the descendants of the royal family. Moreover, we are yet to start the water supply and introduce the metering system and the levy. Once it is operational, we will look into the issue and, if required, will consult the state government."