Centre vs Mamata on Jal Jeevan Mission: Bengal ignores 56% Central aid

“Funds are also provided under Swachh Bharat Mission (G) to take up grey water treatment and reuse works.”
Mamata Banerjee

New Delhi, June 18 : The Centre and West Bengal government seem to be engaged in a fresh tussle and this time the issue relates to the Modi government”s Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) which aims to provide tap water to every household by 2024.

For providing potable water to arsenic or fluoride-affected habitations, the Centre has released a total of Rs 1,305.70 crore to West Bengal since March 2017 under the JJM scheme, out of which 573.36 crore is still lying unutilised, a Jal Shakti Ministry note reveals.

As per the calculation, West Bengal government did not utilise 56 per cent of the amount issued to it by the Central government since March 2017. Against the target of providing tap connections to 32 lakh households in 2019-20, only 4,750 tap connections were provided in the state, the note says, adding, West Bengal, further, was allocated Rs 994 crore in 2019-20, out of which the state could only spend Rs 428 crore.

Taking note of the state government”s attitude towards JJM—the Centre”s ambitious project– Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat recently wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee and expressed concern over the “slow progress” of works under the mission in the state.

The letter mentions that the allocation for the state has been increased from Rs 994 crore in 2019-20 to Rs 1,610.76 crore in 2020-21 and with previous year”s unspent balance, West Bengal has an assured availability of Rs 2,760 crore of Central funds for JJM. With matching state share, West Bengal will have Rs 5,645 crore during 2020-21 for implementation of JJM, which stressed that providing potable water to every rural household is a national priority and the state should make efforts to accomplish the goal in a time-bound manner.

The JJM aims to provide potable drinking water to every rural household through tap connections by 2024. The Prime Minister in his last Independence Day speech spoke about it urging states to implement the scheme which focuses on the objective to improve the lives of rural women, especially girls by reducing their drudgery.

While stressing on the need for proper planning to be done to achieve the goal of JJM within the time frame with focus on retrofitting or 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.

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 or fluoride-affected habitations before December, 2020.

Priority is to be given to saturation of villages in Aspirational districts and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe dominant villages or habitations, JE-AES (Japanese Encephalitis-Acute Encephalitis Syndrome)-affected priority districts and villages under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, the Jal Shakti Ministry note mentions.

Stressing on the role and responsibility of the local community, the Jal Shakti Minister requested to involve local village communities and 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 (Information, Education and Communication) campaign along with community mobilisation needs to be taken up to make the Jal Jeevan Mission truly a people”s movement. Emphasising on the importance of water sources for long-term sustainability of water supply systems, the Union minister urged for strengthening of existing drinking water sources for long-term sustainability of drinking water supply systems.

In 2020-21, West Bengal will receive Rs 4,412 crore as 15th Finance Commission Grant to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and 50 per cent of this amount is mandatorily to be utilised for water supply and sanitation, the ministry said.

“Funds are also provided under Swachh Bharat Mission (G) to take up grey water treatment and reuse works.”

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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