Education

Policy analysis: Jal Jeevan Mission

Introduction:

The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is a government initiative to supply piped water to the households in India through the Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by the year 2024. This mission aims at the integrated level of demand and supply of water management at the local level. It is based on an approach to provide water accessibility to all by creating a “Jan Andolan” for water and includes key elements like Information, Education and Communication as the components of the mission.

Since the year 1972, the Government of India was trying to invest in water supply with the launch of Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme which had the same objective of supplying safe drinking water to all the rural habitations. Further, in 2009, the same program was renamed to National Rural Drinking Water Programme. In 2017-18 several funds were allocated to this project but only later in 2019, the government took this mission seriously and aimed at a 5-year plan. The scheme is also known as Har Ghar Nal Se Jal, which is to provide every rural household with a service of 55 litres of water per day by the year 2024. 

This policy mandates the creation of local infrastructure to maintain sustainability like ground-water recharging, rainwater harvesting, managing the household waste-water so that it can be reused. This mission is to converge with various schemes provided by the Centre and the State to achieve its goal. The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi appealed to all the states to ensure maximum community participation in this mission because drinking safe water should be a priority to all. Along with this, the mission constitutes the biggest infrastructure outlays of the Government of India. Approx. Rs 3, 50,000 Crores to be spent on the project.

For the implementation of this mission, the following institutional arrangement has been proposed by the Government:

Central Level- National Jal Jeevan Mission (NJJM)

State level- State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM)

District level- District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM)

Village level- Village Water Sanitation Committee (VWSC)

Salient features:

The Salient Features of this mission includes:

  • The government will be providing for a functional tap connection to every rural household by the year 2024.
  • The fund provided to the State Governments by the Central Government is to be deposited in one Single Nodal Account (SNA). It is to be maintained by SWSM along with the State matching share and has to be transferred within 15 days after the Centre has allocated the fund. For tracking the fund, Public Finance Management System (PFMS) is to be used.
  • The fund sharing pattern will be 90:10 for the Himalayan and North-Eastern states, 100% for the UTs and 50:50 for the other states.
  • The States/UTs performing which well will be incentivized with unutilized funds of other States at the end of the financial year.
  • IMIS will be monitoring the physical as well as the financial progress, whereas PFMS will monitor the fund utilization.
  • Operational and Management costs like electricity, the salary of staff, purchasing of land etc. will be done out of the share allotted to the Centre.
  • The water supply infrastructure will work in two categories i.e. In-village infrastructure and infrastructure for transfer of water in bulk, its treatment and distribution systems. 
  • In hilly or forested infrastructure or where there are more than 50% of the population belonging to SC/ST, a 5% capital cost will be contributed to such villages.
  • To achieve the objective of this mission on time, it is proposed to forge a partnership with all the leading stakeholders in the water sector around the country.
  • There will also be a water quality monitoring and surveillance system where the water quality will be tested in labs by the PHE department and the communities will take up the surveillance function to ensure the quality is maintained.

Why was it introduced?

India constitutes about 16% of the total world population, but only 4% of the available freshwater resources belong to it. With the increase in population, the demand for safe drinking water also increases. This initiative to provide safe drinking water to all was taken up because of the depleting level of groundwater, exploitation caused to the water-bodies, deteriorating quality of water as well as climate change.

Along with this, out of 180 million rural households 145 million houses don’t have access to piped water. This mission will link these households to water pipeline in the coming 5 years, which haven’t been done until now over 72 years. Yet, this mission is not only about the construction of pipelines but it flows from the larger philosophy of water-related issues that the poor have been facing for a long time. This integrated approach to make water available to all caused the PM to merge various departments and create the Jal Shakti Ministry by merging the departments of water resources, Ganga rejuvenation, river development and the department of safe drinking water and its sanitation.

With this the value of water will be understood by all and people will have a responsible and responsive relationship with water. With the availability of clean and safe water, the health and the socio-economic conditions of these rural areas will tend to improve eventually. It will also bring down the suffrage of rural women and girls who had to walk long hours and distance to fetch water.

Relevant legal provisions:

Keeping in mind the spirit of the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution 1992, part IX, The Panchayats covering articles 243 to 243 (O), entry 11 of this schedule is drinking water and devolving the management to Panchayati Raj Institutions. They can collect suitable taxes in accordance to this and can carry out certain functions as well. Therefore, the Gram Panchayats or its committees will be an important part of the planning, executing and the operational in-village infrastructure. Also, Implementation Support Agencies, Self-Help Groups or NGOs are proposed to be identified and empanelled by the State government and to be engaged by SWSM/ DWSM as per the requirements.

Progress made:

The operational guidelines of this project have been made available on the portal of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation so that the citizens can go through them and can leave any valuable comment or feedback which could improve this process. Further, review of questions that were raised by the MPs of various states has been carried out so that a broad understanding of the issues are developed which would assist in formulating guidelines and implementing them in a better manner. The reports of the Audit Committee and the Standing committee were also examined in detail to get an overview about the shortcomings in the implementation of this program and to address the observations which are provided in the guidelines.

Union Minister for water resources has announced on a video-conferencing that they aim to achieve this goal by the year 2023. Along with this, the government has decided to provide 43-55 litres of water per person per day depending upon the season. During this time of pandemic as well, a few blocks on the Pune district have implemented this scheme of rainwater recharge structure on their individual lands. To speed up the process, Rajya Jal and Swacchta mission have been formed in states and committees have been created under it to look over the work. The process of empanelment of the institutions have also begun and the retrofitting of established and current schemes will also be started on an immediate basis.

Critical analysis:

With the ongoing mission, there is a dire need to spell out the targets and outcomes of this plan in an achievable and tangible manner. Because in its absence, the extent of work which could be done cannot be ascertained. There should be some priority areas that need to be covered first and the performance should also be measured. Policies for water metering and pricing should also be put up. More wastewater will be generated along with the use of water in rural areas. Therefore, there is a need for making a wastewater policy for both rural and urban areas so that water can be recycled and reused properly. Strict actions are required to prevent and remove encroachment near the water bodies.

The excessive extraction of groundwater should also be prevented, and the time taking process of groundwater recharge should be implemented properly and proper measures should be taken during the extraction of groundwater as well as during the discharge of untreated wastewater. The Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016, and the National Water Framework Bill, 2016, which are still not enacted could be a great step towards controlling the exploitation of groundwater. Also, preventing deforestation could be a more suitable policy rather than artificial plantation as it leads to a loss in native forests and biodiversity.

Conclusion:

This mission constitutes one of the biggest infrastructures outlays for any program. It will ensure that safe drinking water is made available to all the rural households so that the members of such households do not have to suffer through a lot to get drinking water. Therefore, the government should encourage the country at the large to support this mission as the health, equity, environment as well as the rural economy will improve if this project is implemented in the way it is intended to be. 

This article is authored by Kavya Arora, a fourth-year law student at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.

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