If Randeep Singh Surjewala can translate into reality Sonia Gandhi’s slogan of Congress ka haath, garib ke saath, in three years' time Haryana would become India’s first state to provide every household with a tap connection for drinking water.
The Haryana Minister for Public Health, Transport and Civil Aviation has set - what he believes - is an achievable target of supplying by March 31, 2007, 40 litres of water to each of the four lakh families, including one lakh scheduled caste families. Since 30.12 lakh out of a total of 37.12 lakh rural and urban households presently draw water through "public stand posts", the first phase of the project would focus on extending these to individual houses.
The "Indira Gandhi Drinking Water Scheme, 2006" - to be launched from a harijan basti (neighbourhood) on Indira Gandhi's birth anniversary on November 19 - involves an investment of Rs 700-800 crores. Even if the cost of electricity for supplying water is added to it, the burden on the exchequer would be modest. Besides, around Rs 300 crores would come from non-SC families who, unlike the 8.20 lakh dalit households, have to pay for storage tanks and other fittings. To inculcate a sense of responsibility, the dalit families have to pay Rs 10 as monthly water charge for an individual tap connection while it is Rs 20 for others.
The overall investment for the scheme - that works on the promise ghar ghar ke andar nal, sab ko pahunche swacha jal (a tap for clean drinking water in every house) - may be modest but it is expected to pay rich dividends. It would create assets, save man-days, check water-borne diseases and improve the health of people, including the lot of women and children. Presently, man-days worth Rs 2000 crore per year are lost because one family member, often a woman, has to be exclusively devoted to the task of drawing water from public stand posts, Surjewala told reporters.
According to the Minister, with water reaching every household, the state would unveil its second major project - of providing every household with a toilet.