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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jal Jeevan Mission crippled in Kerala

Jal Jeevan Mission, with which the Central government aims to bring drinking water to the entire country by 2024, including in the villages, is being systematically sabotaged in Kerala. Of the Rs.4,600 crore rupees allocated for Kerala, only Rs.1,200 crore has been spent with 13 months to go. The list of beneficiaries given by Kerala to the center is also fake. Kerala is 28th in the project ranking.

Incidentally, last week, the communist government approved a recommendation from the water resources department to increase the rate of piped drinking water by one paisa per liter. Left Democratic Front (LDF) convener E P Jayarajan informed reporters they examined the proposal and authorized the rate hike.

The LDF is a coalition of like-minded Abrahamic political parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). These syndicate outfits anyway blindly nod to what the CPM dictates. Kerala Congress (Mani) leader Roshy Augustine has been the Minister for Irrigation, Ground Water Department, Water Supply, and Sanitation in the Pinarayi Vijayan Government since May 2021.

The government knew it was likely to raise public anger and decided to discuss the decision on the Left Democratic Front (LDF). Experts opined that such moves are aimed at helping the packaged drinking water mafia that has a tight grip over proceedings in Kerala. Citizens are unaware of how the communists/water mafia have undermined the Jal Jeevan Mission. 

In 2019, the central government launched PM Narendra Modi’s pet project, the Jal Jeevan Mission. It was only in 2021 that Kerala even began discussions about the project. Since then, the central BJP government has allocated Rs.4,600 crore rupees to the state. Of this, only 1,200 crores were spent.  

The Kerala Ministry for Water Resources informed central Jal Shakti (Water Resources) that they utilized this amount and supplied drinking water to 15.59 lakh consumers. These numbers were untrue, and the Implementation Support Agency (ISA) under Jal Jeevan Mission stated that this figure was fake. Less than two lakh Keralite families are beneficiaries of the Jal Jeevan Mission project.

Drinking water should be provided by forming a new plan. But the project is being implemented in the state by adding to the existing connection of Jalanidhi and the current projects undertaken by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA). Since 2021, 15.59 lakh beneficiaries have been created by falsely including their Aadhaar number on the Jal Jeevan website. With more connections than the current pipeline capacity, many areas are not even getting drinking water.

Per protocol, the beneficiary should bear 10 percent of the Jal Jeevan project cost. The central government provides 50 percent, while the state government pays the rest. But this agreement was overturned in Kerala, and the communist regime solitarily changed these provisions. Now, Gram Panchayats should share 15 percent and provide the land required for the project!

Such steps have become a massive burden for low-income panchayats, where the Jal Jeevan project has become impractical. The state government has not allocated funds to the project implementation agencies in a time-bound manner. With this, the project has stopped in 755 Gram Panchayats that have signed the agreement.

Big states like Haryana, Gujarat, Telangana, and Punjab have achieved what might have been unthinkable a few years ago, and all households have tap water connections. Bihar, with around 96 percent, is not far behind. In Kerala, where communists claim to be number one, it is about 46 percent. The supply of electricity, too, is mired in similar controversies but is a matter for another day. For communist anarchists, is federalism a one-way street?

Price Rise

Speaking to reporters about the price hike, Roshy Augustine, the Kerala water supply minister, declared that it would not be a burden for the common man. The hike will come into effect after March and help the government earn extra income. Media should take the price increase positively and help improve the service, he added.

According to the new tariffs, a family of four must pay an extra Rs.120 monthly. Since commercials and factories have not been accounted for, experts point out that the final burden will be double that amount.

At present, the lowest rate is Rs 4.41 paise per 1000 liters. This has also been increased to Rs.14.41. Citizens are penalized for settling the accumulated liability of Rs.2,391 crores of the KWA. Authorities claim that it costs an astonishing 23 rupees to purify one liter of water!

Communist Fakery & Federalism

This is not the first time the communist government has blatantly lied to the public and later shamelessly apologized to the center, claiming a ‘mistake.’ In October, Kerala State Finance Minister K N Balagopal stated in the assembly that the center owned Kerala GST compensation of Rs.4,466 crores but mentioned Rs.1,548 crores in a note handed over to Central Minister Nirmala Sitaraman.

It turned out that only Rs.780 crores were pending, and that amount was held back since Kerala state failed to submit audited reports. Balagopal then ranted about Kerala’s revenue deficit, non-budget sources, borrowing criteria, state GDP, and whatnot. It remains unknown whether the communist leader presented the audited reports. 

His predecessor, Thomas Isaac (with a Ph.D. in coir weaving), and his communist party have decimated the local coir industry. Isaac also introduced a shady white elephant, KIIFB, that now has estimated liabilities worth not less than Rs.60,000 crores that the citizens must bear. Exact figures remain unknown and are shrouded in secrecy.

Balagopal now says that KIIFB borrowings are not Kerala’s direct liabilities! Yet, he pays thousands of crores in interest and refuses to get the accounts publicly audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). The KIIFB income comes mainly from a cess on fuel.

Incidentally, KIIFB sanctioned funding for 70 water supply projects worth Rs.4,428.763 crores and is being implemented by Kerala Water Authority (KWA). The only positive is that the allocation ceased in 2019, at least for major ones.

The situation was similar when it came to highway development. In December, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, revealed that the Kerala government backtracked from its commitment to bear 25 percent of the expense incurred during land acquisition for the development of the National Highways. He added that constructing a one km stretch of national highway in Kerala costs an astonishing Rs.100 crore.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that the agreement only applied to one highway and not other state projects. He brazened it out and added that highway expansion is the right of the state and not a freebie. Vijayan claimed discrimination since the central government bears the complete expense of highway construction in other states. The Kerala CM did not consider the exorbitant land rates in Kerala and the corruption/gawking charges involved.

Incidentally, Vijayan does not even handle the Kerala Public Works Department. His son-in-law, PA Mohammed Riyas, is the PWD minister, and Vijayan was covering up for him. Riyas is anyway busy whipping up communal passions in his bastion of Kozhikode.

Hypocrisy and Corruption

The water supply project at Chittarikkal, Hosdurg taluk in Kasargod, is a perfect example of the Kerala government’s hypocrisy and corruption. Work began in 2012 but could not be completed for various reasons, even after setting aside a whopping Rs.12.3 crore rupees. Panchayat authorities provided basic facilities and land for the project. 

They paid an extra Rs 49 lakh more than the tender amount to the initial contractor, but the work could not be completed. Another contractor was terminated, and Rs 1.3 crore was transferred from the panchayat’s fund. Yet, nothing happened. Later, the panchayat alleged that the contractors’ failure and the officials’ laxity made it impossible to complete the project.

Somehow, after spending Rs.8.45 crores, 700 households were provided clean water since the last covid period out of an estimated 3,300. Having spent a whopping rupees one lakh thirty thousand per connection, even the World Bank understood that they were being taken for a ride and withdrew from the project. 

Earlier this month, Rs.30.50 crore was earmarked for a new project. Jal Jeevan Mission has allocated 24 crores, KWA 3 crores, and KIIFB 3.5 crores for pipeline replacement. Two thousand six hundred existing connections also need to be repaired/replaced. Many of the existing roadside pipelines need to be substituted. A mini water treatment plant will be established, and ten new water reservoirs will be installed in different panchayat areas.

Several such projects have been abandoned across the state to be replaced by Jal Jeevan Mission projects. Authorities/politicians have looted crores, and that topic has been comfortably brushed under thick Panchayat carpets. 

Meanwhile, Roshy Augustine and Antony Raju (Minister for Road Transport) are busy meeting Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. They are allegedly busy planning protests styled on the Vizhinjam anti-port anarchy. This time, they aim to protect the thousands of acres of highly eco-sensitive reserve forests in the hill ranges that Abrahamics have usurped for decades.

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