In continuation of various initiatives taken up to improve the lives of people of this country, ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ was launched by Government of India last year to provide every rural household in the country a Functional Household Tap Connection for supply of potable water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality on regular and long-term basis. Following the true spirit of cooperative federalism, State Governments are implementing this flagship programme to realize the objectives of the Mission so as to ensure ‘ease of living’ of people in rural areas as well as reduce the ‘drudgery’ of women, especially girls. This life changing Mission focuses on the key principles of ‘equity and inclusiveness’, i.e. every family in the village gets tap water connection in their households. With a departure from earlier programmes, JJM stresses on service delivery, rather than infrastructure creation.

The Annual Action Plan (AAP) is very important for timely implementation to achieve the goals of the mission, for which very intensive exercise was carried out in the Ministry in last couple of months and all the States have presented their annual action plan for JJM. West Bengal is yet to present its AAP before the National Committee of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

West Bengal has 1.63 Crore rural households spread over 41,357 villages, but only 2 lakh households have a tap connection in their premises. In 2019-20, against a target of 32.24 lakh households to be given tap connections, State could provide only 4,720 household tap connections. In 2020-21, the target fixed for providing tap connections is 64.43 lakh households including the shortfall of about 32.19 lakh from the previous year. This needs rigorous planning and robust implementation strategy to achieve the target.

In 2019-20, Rs. 993.88 Crore of Central funds was released to the State, however only Rs 421.63 Crore was utilized and rest amount is lying unspent. Further, to provide potable water in Arsenic/ Fluoride-affected habitations, a sum of Rs. 1,305 Crore was provided, out of which Rs. 573.36 Crore is still lying unspent. Thus, as on 1.4.2020, State has an opening balance of Rs. 1,146.58 Crore as Central Share to provide tap water to rural households. During 2020-21, fund allocation to West Bengal has increased to Rs. 1,610.76 Crore. With an opening balance of Rs. 1,146.58 Crore, the State has an assured availability of Rs. 2,757.34 Crore of Central share funds. Therefore, in 2020-21, along with State share about Rs. 5,515 Crore will be available under Jal Jeevan Mission to provide household tap connections in West Bengal. Further, additional funds too can be provided based on progress of implementation in form of performance incentive under JJM. Therefore, the State needs to make a monthly plan for physical progress in terms of tap connections to be provided and expenditure plan for prudent financial management to spend the huge amount of funds available with State.

As Government of India is working in tandem with States to achieve the goals of JJM within the time frame, focus is on retrofitting/ augmentation of existing water supply systems to provide tap connections to remaining households. Out of total 41,357 villages In West Bengal, 22,155 (54%) villages already have piped water supply systems. However, only 2 lakh households in these villages have tap connections. Those which have been left out in such villages belong to poor and marginalized sections of the society. There is a potential to provide 1.08 Crore household tap connections in these villages. State needs to push this agenda forward with utmost speed to provide household tap connections in next 4-6 months in a ‘campaign mode’. Priority is to be given to saturation of villages in quality-affected habitations, aspirational districts, SC/ ST majority villages/ habitations and villages covered under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.

Potable water supply to water quality-affected habitations is given top most priority under JJM and in view of interim order of National Green Tribunal, State has to ensure piped water supply to all households in 2,414 Arsenic and Fluoride affected habitations before 31 December, 2020. In case, potable water piped connections cannot be ensured before December, 2020, as an interim measure, potable water @ 8-10 lpcd for drinking and cooking purpose is to be provided by installing community water purification plants (CWPP).

West Bengal would receive Rs 4,412 Crore as 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs, 50% of which will mandatorily be spent on water and sanitation. There is need for convergence planning to be done by the State under various programmes like MGNREGS, JJM, SBM (G), 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs, District Mineral Development Fund, CAMPA, CSR Fund, Local Area Development Fund, etc. at village level and Village Action Plan (VAP) of every village is to be prepared by dovetailing all such funds for carrying out water conservation activities to strengthen water source leading to drinking water security.

In all villages, IEC campaign along with community mobilization is to be taken up to make JJM truly a people’s movement. State has to engage women Self Help Groups and voluntary organizations working in social sector and natural resources management to mobilize the rural community for creation of in-village water supply infrastructure as well as for their operation and maintenance.

To achieve the objectives of the Mission to provide tap connection to each rural household in every habitation/ village on long-term basis, skilled manpower in areas like masonry, plumbing, fitting, electricity, etc., will be needed for creation of water supply schemes and their operation & maintenance and such manpower will be required in each village/ habitation. Ministry of Jal Shakti has roped in National Skill Development Corporation to create a pool of skilled Human Resource in rural areas to make villages a self-reliant unit without depending on others for regular upkeep and maintenance of water supply systems.

In the prevailing CoVid-19 pandemic situation, State needs to start works related to water supply and water conservation immediately in villages so as to provide works to the skilled/ semi-skilled migrants to provide livelihood as well as to ensure potable water in the households of rural people as well as boost the rural economy.

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