20 million rural houses got tap water in 2019; total at 51 million
India has 189 million rural households, according to the official data. Till August 16, cumulatively over a four-year period, 51 million households, or 27% of the total, were provided with tap water connection under the joint Centre-state Jal Jeevan mission, data analysed by HT shows.Updated: Aug 19, 2020 04:29 IST
Nearly 51 million rural households have now got tap-water connections, of which 20 million were added in the past year. It’s a leap over previous years. But the Jal Jeevan mission to provide every rural household with water supply, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his 2019 Independence speech, needs to expand at a quicker rate to meet its 2024 deadline, an HT analysis based on government data shows.
Over 120 million households lack access to clean water near their homes, the highest in the world, according to UN-Water.
Contaminated water causes diseases such as diarrhoea, the third leading cause of childhood mortality in India, according to researchers Subitha Lakshminarayanan and Ramakrishnan Jayalakshmy of Puduchery’s Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research and Indira Gandhi Medical College.
India has 189 million rural households, according to the official data. Till August 16, cumulatively over a four-year period, 51 million households, or 27% of the total, were provided with tap water connection under the joint Centre-state Jal Jeevan mission, data analysed by HT shows.
This also means authorities must provide water connection to another 138 million households, or 73% remaining, by 2024. Piped drinking water to rural households is one of the critical components for achieving universal access to safe drinking water in the country.
In 2018, just 18.2% of rural households had piped water supply. By 2019, this translated to an improvement of 9 percentage points. But the federally set deadline of 2024 – by which all households must be connected – means the current rate of expansion will need to go up to meet the completion date.
The Gajendra Shekhawat-led Jal Shakti ministry oversees the implementation of the rural household water mission. According to him, his ministry and states utilised the Covid-19 lockdown period to hold video-conferences to prepare for state plans for this year and year ahead. “Lockdown was an opportunity,” Shekhawat said.
A 2018 Comptroller and Auditor General performance audit said the programme was meant to provide at least 35% of rural households with piped water supply by 2017, and 80% households by 2020.
Water is a state subject but the Union government provides a major share of funding. The Jal Jeevan rural households programme is worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore. Of this, the Centre’s share is about Rs 2.2 lakh crore.
The Union budget had allotted Rs 10001 crore in 2019-20 for the national rural drinking water mission. In 2020-21, Rs 11500 crore was provided.
The Jal Jeevan mission in its earlier avatar was the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) under the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA-II) government.
“There has been a huge gap between the government’s stated objectives and actual delivery in the rural drinking water scheme,” said Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.
Till 2018-19, expenditure as a proportion of funds available under the rural drinking water programme had been steadily decreasing, according to Accountability Initiative, a think-tank tracking government policies.
In FY 2014-15, 84% of available funds were spent. This fell to 72% in FY 2017-18. In FY 2018-19, only 65% of the total funds available for NRDWM were spent. In 2014-15, 0.6% of total government funding was allocated to the rural piped drinking water project, which dropped to 0.2% in 2018-19. Funding got an 80% boost in the next year when the National Democratic Alliance government took it up as a mission.