The Centre has asked Arunachal Pradesh government for expeditious implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission, a flagship programme that aims to improve the lives of rural people by providing safe drinking water to every rural household through household tap connections by 2024.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in a letter to Chief Minister Pema Khandu urged him to focus on retrofitting and augmentation of piped water supply schemes already existing in the villages and habitations, so that the remaining households could be provided with tap connection easily in least possible time.
Shekhawat in his letter asked the chief minister to start the work in a campaign mode.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the endeavour of the government that people do not crowd public stand posts and drinking water sources,” the union minister said.
He requested the state government for taking up water supply works in villages on immediate basis to provide household tap connections, which would help in practising social distancing and would additionally help local people in getting employment and boost rural economy.
Stressing on the need for strengthening of existing drinking water sources for long-term sustainability of drinking water supply systems, Shekhawat asked for convergence of various programmes like MGNREGS, SBM (G), 15th FC Grants to PRIs, District Mineral Development Fund, CAMPA, Local Area Development Fund, at village level for judicious use of all available funds.
“The state will get ₹231 crore under 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs during 2020-21; 50 per cent of this amount has to be mandatorily to be spent on water and sanitation,” the minister said in his letter.
Under Jal Jeevan Mission, water quality testing laboratories at district and state levels are given priority. Community is being involved for surveillance of water quality. Provision has been made to empower and engage with the community for which, various activities are planned like timely procurement of kits, supply of kits to the community, identification of at least five women in every village, training five persons especially women for use of field test kits, so that water can be tested locally.
Shekhawat in his letter assured Khandu of his full support to make the state a cent per cent Har Ghar Jal state and intends to discuss the planning and implementation of the
mission with him through video conferencing soon.
The approach of decentralized, demand-driven, community-managed water supply schemes at village level is perceived as a major reform in the drinking water sector in India.
Being implemented in partnership with states, the mission aims to enable every rural household with assured availability of potable water at a service level of 55 litres per capita per day on regular and long-term basis so as to bring improvements in lives of rural folks.
Arunachal Pradesh plans to provide cent per cent tap connections to all the households of the state by March, 2023 and accordingly the Centre has allocated an amount of ₹255 crore for the state under the mission in 2020-21.
The state would be given additional funds in form of performance grants based on the achievement in terms of tangible outputs – the household tap connections and commensurate financial progress.
Of the 2.18 lakh total rural households in Arunachal Pradesh, 37,000 households have been already provided with tap connections. The state is planning to provide 77,000 tap connections in 2020-21.
While planning, thrust is given on covering households in aspirational district, quality-affected habitations, Sansad Adarsh Gramin Yojana villages on priority.
Being a decentralized programme, local community will play a pivotal role in planning, implementation, management, operation and maintenance of water supply systems in villages to ensure long-term sustainability.
Local communities are encouraged to take responsibility of water supply systems in villages for regular upkeep and operation and maintenance. In all villages, IEC campaign along with community mobilization needs to be taken up to make Jal Jeevan Mission truly a peoples movement.
Skilling activities are planned so that unemployed youth could be trained in plumbing, masonry, fitting, pump operation so that a pool of trained human resources could be available at village level and engaged locally, which will help in long-term operation and maintenance of schemes without depending on outside agencies.
Earlier, highlighting low utilisation of funds under the Jal Jeevan Mission, the Centre has asked the Odisha government to ensure its expeditious implementation and said the central scheme could also help generate employment and boost the local economy.
Shekhawat in a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that Odisha should review the planning and implementation strategy of water supply schemes.
On June 19, the ministry wrote to chief secretaries of all states alerting them about a fraud in the name of Jal Jeevan Mission and asked them to bring to the notice of the ministry on finding such matters.
The move came after the CBI, on complaint by the ministry headed by Shekhawat, unearthed a fraud involving crores of rupees.
“I received certain complaints about an NGO operating from different states and cheating people in the name of Jal Jeevan Mission. The NGO was signing MoUs for providing people with contracts in the mission. I then asked officials to file a complaint with CBI and the agency has arrested two persons in this connection,” he told reporters.
The action was taken in March under which the NGO founder Suresh Kumar Verma and manager Subhash Singh were arrested and several fake MoUs were recovered.
Shekhawat said he had received complaints from several states including Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana that money was taken in the name of awarding contracts for works related to Jal Jeevan Mission and Jal Shakti Abhiyan.
In the investigation, the CBI found that the Delhi-based RS Foundation, registered as an NGO, was signing agreements with people in the name of getting them contracts.
The foundation used to show contractors the fake documents of agreement between it and the Ministry of Jal Shakti to win their confidence.
He said the NGO took crores of rupees from people in the name of getting them work contracts.
Shekhawat informed that his ministry has written a letter to chief secretaries to all the states asking them to bring to the notice of the ministry on finding such matters.
(With inputs from agencies)