Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 2019 Independence speech announced the Jal Jeevan mission that aimed to provide water supply to every rural household in Bharat. The Gajendra Shekhawat-led Jal Shakti ministry oversees the implementation of the rural household water mission. His ministry used the lockdown as an opportunity and prepared and implemented state-wise plans.
Incidentally, water is a State subject but the Centre provides a major share of funding. The mission said that ₹3.60 lakh crore has been earmarked to achieve the goal of providing safe and adequate drinking water to all households in rural Bharat by 2024.
At the start of the Jal Jeevan mission in 2019, out of a total of 19.20 Crore rural households in the country, only 3.23 Crore (16.8%) had tap water supply. During the last 25 months, despite Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns disruptions, Jal Jeevan Mission, has been implemented with speed and 5.12 crore additional households have been provided with piped water connections. With this increase in coverage, presently 8.35 Crore (43.4%) rural households across the country have tap water supply.
A total of 1,18,812 villages and 81 districts in the country now have 100% tap water supply.
- The Union budget had allotted ₹10,001 crore in 2019-20 for the national rural drinking water mission.
- In 2020-21, ₹11,500 crore was provided.
- The Union budget for 2021-22 allotted ₹50,000 crores.
- In early 2019, only 2% of rural households in Bihar had running tap water. In just two years, 88% of Bihar rural households have tap water connections.
- The states faring better than Bihar are Goa (100% connections), Telangana (100%) and Haryana (99.24%).
- Goa, Telangana, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu and Puducherry have all achieved 100% tap water supply in rural areas.
- Telangana took its share of rural households with tap water from 29% in 2019 to 100% now.
- 70.13% of rural households in Gujarat, 34.02% in Maharashtra and 17.15% in Tamil Nadu had tap water. They have improved this to 88%, 66.74% and 37.3% respectively
According to Niti Aayog’s classification, aspirational districts are those where socio-economic indicators are lower than the national average and lag behind in infrastructure development. These are the homes of the poorest in Bharat. These districts are given a priority when it comes to laying water infrastructure.
Similarly, priority is also accorded to areas with higher Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population. This has led to a faster rate of implementation in the poorest of the poor areas. There has been a four-fold increase in the rate at which functional piped water is being provided to households in 117 aspirational districts.
Water supply to these districts is being prioritized and water connections here have overtaken the national average under the flagship Jal Jeevan Mission. Over a third of all households in aspirational and Japanese-encephalitis-endemic districts of the country now have clean piped water under the Mission.
About 1.12 crores or 38% of all households in Japanese-encephalitis endemic districts now have access to clean piped water. This water is critical to improving health outcomes and is up from about 3% in 2019. Another 1.18 crore households, or 35% of the total, have been provided with tap water connections in the aspirational districts, up from 8% in 2019.
However, experts point out that a key challenge is to maintain the sustainability of water supply sources to ensure that villages do not fall back to “no-water” status after a few years. Cutting down the overuse of water in agriculture, which hogs 90% of available supply, is important.
Agriculture’s demand for water is disproportionately huge because of free electricity leading to wastage and a lot of incentives like MSP for crops such as paddy, causing rapid depletion of groundwater. This is one more reason for the so-called farmers protest centred in Punjab to wrap up and go home.