Union Minister of Jal Shakti, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in his letter to Chief Minister of West Bengal has expressed concern over the slow progress of works under Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in the State. As announced by the Prime Minister in his last Independence Day speech, States are implementing JJM, which aims to provide potable drinking water to every rural household through tap connections (FHTCs) by 2024. The objective of the Mission is to improve the lives of rural women especially girls by reducing their drudgery.
In his letter, Shri Shekhawat mentioned that under Jal Jeevan Mission funds are provided by Government of India based on the output in terms of household tap connections provided and the utilization of available funds. Against the target of providing tap connections to 32 lakh households in the year 2019-20, only 4,750 tap connections were provided in the State. Further, West Bengal was allocated ₹994 Crore in 2019-20, out of which the State could only spend ₹428 Crore. For providing potable water to Arsenic/Fluoride- affected habitations a total of ₹1,305.70 Crore has been released to West Bengal since March, 2017, out of which ₹ 573.36 Crore is still lying unutilized.
The letter mentions that the allocation for the State has been increased from ₹994 Crore in 2019-20 to ₹1,610.76 Crore in 2020-21 and with previous year’s unspent balance, West Bengal has an assured availability of ₹2,760 Crore of Central funds for JJM. With matching State share, WB will have ₹5,645 Crore during 2020-21 for implementation of JJM. The Jal Shakti Minister stressed that providing potable water to every rural household is a national priority and the State should make efforts to accomplish the goal in time-bound manner.
While stressing on the need for proper planning to be done to achieve the goal of JJM within the timeframe with focus on retrofitting/ augmentation of existing water supply systems to provide tap connections to remaining households, the Jal Shakti Minister said about 1 Crore households can be provided tap connections in 21,600 villages in the State reported to have existing piped water supply schemes.
Shri Shekhawat mentioned that potable water supply to water quality-affected habitations is a top priority under JJM and potable water is to be provided in Arsenic/ Fluoride- affected habitations before December, 2020. Priority is to be given to saturation of villages in aspirational district and SC/ ST dominant villages/ habitations, JE-AES affected priority districts and villages under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.
Stressing on the role and responsibility of local community, the Jal Shakti Minister requested to involve local village community/ Gram Panchayats and user groups in planning, implementation, management, operation and maintenance of water supply systems to ensure long-term sustainability to achieve drinking water security. In all villages, IEC campaign along with community mobilization needs to be taken up to make Jal Jeevan Mission truly a people’s movement.
Emphasizing on the importance of water sources for long-term sustainability of water supply systems, Union Minister urged for strengthening of existing drinking water sources for long-term sustainability of drinking water supply systems. The planning should be done at village level and Village Action Plan (VAP) of every village is to be prepared by dovetailing the available resources by convergence of different programmes viz. MGNREGS, SBM, 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs, CAMPA funds, District Mineral Development Fund, Local Area Development Funds, etc.
In 2020-21, West Bengal will receive ₹4,412 Crore as 15th Finance Commission Grant to PRIs and 50% of this amount is mandatorily to be utilized for water supply & sanitation. Funds are also provided under Swachh Bharat Mission (G) to take up grey water treatment and reuse works.
In the wake of COVID–19 pandemic, it is important that people don’t crowd public stand posts/ public water sources. Chief Minister of West Bengal has been requested to take up water supply works in all villages to provide household tap connections which will help in practicing social distancing, besides help locals/ migrants in getting employment and boost the rural economy.
Minister of Jal Shakti assured West Bengal CM of full support of Union Government to make West Bengal ‘100% FHTCs State i.e. ‘Har Ghar Jal Rajya’ by 2024 and intends to discuss the planning and implementation of JJM with the CM through video conferencing soon.