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India: Minister of Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, in his letter to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has sought intervention to ensure expeditious implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in the State. JJM plans to improve the lives of people by providing safe drinking water to every rural household through functional household tap connections (FHTCs) by 2024. After the Annual Action Plan was presented before the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Minister in a communication to the CM mentioned that the State’s commitment to providing piped water supply to every household will bring an end to the drudgery endured by women and girls in rural areas. Minister expressed optimism that time-bound implementation of JJM will ensure rural people will get potable water in adequate quantity, of prescribed quality on a regular basis in their households on a long-term basis.

Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to providing all assistance to the State Government to achieve this goal. Funds are provided by the Government of India based on the outputs in terms of FHTCs provided and the utilization of available Central and matching State share.

The minister highlighted that in 2019-20, very few household tap connections were provided in the State against the target of 13.86 lakh households and raised his concerns for it. It was mentioned that in 2019-20, TN was allocated Rs 373.87 Crore to provide tap connections to 13.86 lakh households, and Rs 373.10 Crore was released. However, the State could utilize only Rs. 114.58 Crore under JJM at the end of March 2020.

Further, Mr. Shekhawat expressed that providing potable water in every rural household is a national priority & in this context, fund allocation to TN has been increased from Rs. 373.87 Crore to Rs.917.44 Crore during 2020-21. Thus, combined with an opening balance of Rs. 264.09 Crore, TN has assured availability of Rs.1,181.53 Crore of Central funds. With an increase in borrowing limits of the State from 3.5% to 5% under the FRBM Act, and with the commitment to provide every household with FHTCs by 2024, the central Minister expects that State’s matching share along with Central fund will be made available to implementing agency in time. Thus in 2020-21, with State’s matching share, the total fund availability with the State for providing tap connections is Rs. 2,363 Crore.

But, in view of the unsatisfactory output in terms of number of FHTCs provided during 2019-20 and low utilization of funds, the Minister urged the CM to review the planning and implementation of water supply schemes in the State, and also to focus on the already existing Piped Water Supply schemes, which could be retrofitted/ augmented in a ‘campaign mode’, as there is a potential to provide 105 lakh FHTCs in the State and these villages can become ‘Har Ghar Jal Gaon’.

Out of 1.27 Crore rural households in the State, 21.85 lakhs already have household tap connections. This year the State plans to provide tap water to 34 lakh rural households. Priority is being given for 100% coverage of all 117 villages under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna, villages in aspirational districts, and 90% SC/ ST dominated habitations. Sivaganga district having 78% tap connections, Vellore district with 61% and Pudukottai district with 58% household connections are planned for 100% coverage during the current year.

The Union Minister has requested the Chief Minister for actively considering of dovetailing all resources for strengthening of existing drinking water sources to ensure the long-term sustainability of drinking water supply systems through the convergence of various programs like MGNREGS, SBM (G), 15th FC Grants to PRIs, District Mineral Development Fund, CAMPA, CSR Fund, Local Area Development Fund, etc. at village level with emphasis on preparation of Village Action Plan (VAP) of every village. He has further mentioned that local village community/ Gram Panchayats and or its sub-committee/ user groups need to be involved in planning, implementation, management, operation, and maintenance of water supply systems in villages to ensure long-term sustainability to achieve water security. In all villages, the IEC campaign along with community mobilization needs to be taken up to make JJM truly a people’s movement.

This letter finds more relevance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is important that people don’t crowd public stand posts/ public water sources. Therefore, he has requested to take up water supply works in all villages to provide household tap connections that will help in practicing social distancing and will additionally help local people/ migrants in getting employment as well as boost the rural economy.

Assuring the CM of Tamil Nadu of his unconditional support including funds to make the State a ‘100% FHTCs State’, Union Minister of Jal Shakti has sought to discuss the planning and implementation of JJM with the CM and Finance Minister of the State through video conferencing soon.

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