In an urgent directive, the Centre has asked the states to ensure that the migrant workers hit by COVID-19 are engaged in drinking water mission.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister for Jal Shakti, has asked the chief ministers to revise MGNREGA guidelines to include the tasks under the mission as part of the works that can be allotted to migrant workers.
The programme named Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) aims at reaching clean drinking water to all households in rural India by 2024. This follows an announcement made by the prime minister from the ramparts of Red Fort on 15th August 2019. The Centre would be spending ₹3.5 lakh crore on the task.
The mission is planned as community approach to water in which communication and information are supposed play a crucial role. The water resources ministry, which has now been renamed as Jal Shakti Ministry, has decided to ride on MGNREGA to speed up the mission by enrolling migrants into the task.
Talking to The Federal, Shekhawat, said the “move should instill a sense of ownership among the villagers and give job opportunities to the migrants and help mitigate their sufferings”.
The secretaries of department of rural development, department of water resources, department of land resources and department of drinking water and sanitation in a joint letter to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories have asked them to start works related to water conservation and recharge activities before the onset of the monsoon.
The chief secretaries have been asked to write to their district collectors and also panchayat heads asking them to commence various activities to involve society at large for conservation of water. Jal Shakti Mission covers 256 water distressed districts across the country.
Last year 6.5 crore people were made part of the campaign by involving various central government offices. Due to onset of COVID-19 the secretaries feel that this may not be feasible this year. Therefore, they have requested mobilisation of local resources.
The ministry of home affairs in a separate circular has already notified that irrigation and water work be given priority under MGNREGA. The collectors have been asked to ensure that strict social distancing norms are followed while implementing the mission.
The objective of the water mission is to provide functional household tap connection to each rural household of the country. The Centre now expects the programme will also help in solving the unemployment problem.
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, recently committed to the ministry to bring all the districts under JJM within March-December, 2022 timeline.
The commitments were made during their presentations to the National Jal Jeevan Mission of the ministry while seeking approval of JJM-related Annual Action Plan (2020-21).
The ministry feels the piped water connection will help in ensuring social distancing norms as people need not crowd at public pipes to fetch water.
In Haryana out of 28.94 lakh rural households, 18.83 lakh already have tap connections. The plan is to provide seven lakh connections within 2020-21.
In Punjab, out of 35.07 lakh rural households, 17.48 lakh have tap connections. The plan is to provide 7.6 lakh connections out of remaining 17.59 lakh households by the end of 2020-21.