Present and Future of Har Ghar Nal se Jal
About one-sixth of India’s households had a clean water tap when the program, called Jal Jeevan Mission, began in 2019. Now almost half have one. Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) in every rural home, i.e. households provided with tap water connection since the launch of the Mission (2019) – 5,46,73,581 (28.46%).
The Government of India has restructured and subsumed the ongoing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) into Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household i.e.Har Ghar Nal Se Jal (HGNSJ) by 2024. The goal of JJM is to provide functional household tap connection to every household with a service level at the rate of 55 litres per capita per day (lpcd).
Prime Minister Modi also launched the Rashtriya Jal Jeevan Kosh, where any individual, institution, corporate or philanthropist, be it in India or abroad, can contribute to help provide tap water connection in every rural household, school, Anganwadi centre, ashram shala and other public institutions.
‘Pani samitis’ play a key role in planning, implementation, management, operation, and maintenance of village water supply systems, thereby providing clean tap water to every household on a regular and long-term basis.
The progress made by the mission is applaudable. So far, 83 districts and 1.29 lakh villages across the country have become Har Ghar Jal, i.e. 100 percent of households in these villages have assured tap water supply in their home.
“You rarely have this drive from the government, the head of state, and it is well funded. Behind the concept, there is a budget,” said Nicolas Osbert, who leads the UNICEF water and sanitation unit in India. “All social sectors were impacted by Covid. Not this one. This one was preserved.”
Rs 1.42 lakh crore has been allocated to Panchayati raj institutions as a tied grant under the 15th Finance Commission for water and sanitation in villages for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26.
Under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), there is a provision for the constitution of the State Level Scheme Sanctioning Committee (SLSSC) for consideration and approval of schemes to be taken up for the provision of tap water supply to rural households. The SLSSC acts as a state-level committee to consider water supply schemes and projects, and as a nominee of the National Jal Jeevan Mission (NJJM), Government of India is a member of the committee.
The mission has been perfectly planned and all-inclusive, why has the process been slow? Precisely where are we lagging behind?
Two-fold situations are present in this scenario, first is the availability of water when groundwater depletion has been occurring at a fast pace in India, and, second is the challenge of participation of people in maintaining the created water sources.
If there are only pipelines and no water coming from them, then there is no use for pipelines. Over here, the principles of the circulation economy would play a vital role, which are to reduce wastage, recycle and reuse. These tenets would address the availability of water, ensure the quality standard, and keep the pollution in check. These ideas need to be included in the mission itself so that it actually reaches its ultimate goal of har ghar nal se jal.
Moreover, even if pipelines have water but no electricity, how will water reach households and farms? Therefore, with Har Ghar Nal Se policy, the Saubhagya Yojana of Har Ghar Bijalee i.e. every house should get electricity also needs to be strengthened. While doing this, considering the COP26 promises, the energy generated should be more from renewable resources.
The second aspect that is limiting the progress of the mission is mixed support from people. To sustain the mission in the future, a minimal amount is taken from the households as a maintenance cost. There are people who regularly contribute because they cannot afford the higher prices of hospitalisation. Some people have the ability to pay but do not wish to pay. In some cases, those who pay face the challenge of free birds where other people are benefiting without paying the maintenance cost. Few people think that water is the government’s responsibility and should be given for free.
To succeed in the mission, an assessment of the two-fold situation should be conducted. Future steps to tackle challenges include the cooperative spirit amongst ministries as well as villagers. Water and electricity need to reach hand-in-hand to villages because these are complementary services and cannot stand alone for a long time. The ministries and departments of state governments need to conduct common meetings and set up similar agendas. According to the decided plan, they can execute missions and attain the final objective of giving basic needs for the benefit of people.
The approach of the mission is in the right direction, that is, to serve the villagers with basic necessities such as water. However, to sustain the mission villagers should be convinced. This is a herculean task but can be accomplished with people’s support. With regards to people participation, awareness camps should be arranged with gram sabha as well as with the self-help groups in the villages. Lastly, it is people’s choice if they want to contribute or not. The government can try their level best to give them the right information, basic needs, and the confidence that having access to water is their right along with their duties as a citizen to contribute to make it happen.