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Important Role of Media in Creating Awareness and Community Engagement for Providing Tap Water Supply: Bharat Lal, AS & Mission Director, National Jal Jeevan Mission

India: Highlighting the role of media, Bharat Lal, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Jal Jeevan Mission today said, “The media has a very important role in generating awareness about Jal Jeevan Mission and in engaging communities to own, operate, and manage their in-village water supply system for ensuring regular and long-term clean tap water supply in rural homes.”

He was delivering the keynote address in a national media interaction organized by UNICEF in New Delhi today.

In his Independence Day address on 15th August 2021, the Hon’ble Prime Minister had emphasized that for schemes like Jal Jeevan Mission benefits of the scheme must reach everyone and ‘no one is left out’. The Prime Minister had added, “We have to move ahead with a mindset of cent-percent achievement. When the Government operates with a target to reach the person in the last line, only then there is no discrimination and there is no scope for corruption.”

Recognizing media as an important partner in delivering Jal Jeevan Mission’s community-oriented messages to provide tap water, improve health and provide ease of living to the rural population especially women and children in rural India, Mr. Lal urged media persons to make people aware of various aspects of clean tap water and help in making Jal Jeevan Mission a Jan Andolan.

Over 80 national and state-level media representatives from print, online, radio and TV participated in the ‘Interaction with media on Jal Jeevan Mission’ program focussed on the vision, objectives, priorities, and achievements of the mission in providing clean tap water supply to all rural homes. Nicolas Osbert, Chief, WASH, UNICEF India, and Zafrin Chowdhury, Chief, Communication, Advocacy and Partnership, UNICEF India were also present in the program.

Elaborating the mission’s motto that ‘no one to be left out’ and developing a responsive and responsible leadership to manage tap water supply in every village, Mr. Lal said that the aim is to make every village ‘WASH enlightened village’. Demonstrating the use of deep technology, digital governance, and sensor-based IoT system through the JJM dashboard, he emphasized how the lives of millions of rural households across India are being transformed by providing them clean tap water and removing age-old drudgery from the lives of women and children. Mr. Lal said, “the focus under mission is to ensure clean tap water supply to all rural households as well as every school, AWCs, PHCs, CHCs, community centers, etc.”

Nicolas Osbert, Chief, WASH, UNICEF India, invited media to participate actively in the JJM, seizing the opportunity of this outstanding investment in public health by providing clean tap water supply to every home and thus empowering communities, and promoting hygiene, cleanliness, and environmental sustainability.

Announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August 2019, Jal Jeevan Mission is implemented in a decentralized manner following the ‘bottom-up’ approach, wherein the local village community plays a key role starting from planning to implementation and from management to operation and maintenance. To achieve this, the State undertakes activities like strengthening the Village Water & Sanitation Committee (VWSC) or Pani Samiti and developing Village Action Plan (VAP) in the Gram Sabha wherein the community deliberates on water concerns affecting their daily lives. VAPs have the components of drinking water source strengthening/ augmentation, water supply infrastructure, greywater treatment & reuse, and operation & maintenance of in-village water supply system. The mission mandates that half of the members of VWSC/ Pani Samiti are women, thus encouraging women participation in these discussions being the primary water managers in any household. The States are organizing intensive training and skilling programs, especially on water quality surveillance to 5 persons mostly women in every village and local persons as masons, plumbers, electricians, motor mechanics, fitter, and pump operators.

With Government’s focus on water supply and improved sanitation, the 15th Finance Commission allocated Rs. 26,940 Crore tied grants to RLBs/ PRIs in 2021-22 for the supply of drinking water, rainwater harvesting and water recycling, and sanitation and maintenance of ODF status. There is an assured fund of Rs. 1.42 lakh Crore for the next 5 years from 2021-22 to 2025-26. This will supplement the ongoing efforts under JJM. All-out efforts are to be made for judicious use of this grant by rural local bodies by focusing on activities viz. rainwater harvesting, strengthening of drinking water sources, improving water supply, greywater management, and regular operation & maintenance.

At the start of the mission in 2019, out of 19.20 Crore rural households in the country, only 3.23 Crore (17%) had a tap water supply. Despite challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, over 5.44 Crore (28.31%) households have been provided with a tap water supply since the launch of the mission. Presently, 8.67 Crore (45.15%) rural households have been provided the tap water supply. Goa, Telangana, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Puducherry and Haryana have become ‘Har Ghar Jal’ i.e., tap water supply has been provided to all rural households in these States/ UTs.

So far in 4.5 lakh villages, VWSCs or Pani Samiti have been formed and Village Action Plan has been prepared for 3.37 lakh villages. More than 8.5 lakh women volunteers have been trained to test the quality of water by using Field Test Kits (FTKs). They collect samples and test their quality to ensure that the water supplied is as per the prescribed parameters. The test report of FTK is uploaded on the JJM portal. Today, the country has more than 2,000 water testing laboratories that are open for the public at a nominal cost to test the quality of water.

Under Jal Jeevan Mission, priority is accorded to water-scarce areas, quality-affected villages, Aspirational districts, SC/ST majority villages, and Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) villages. The tap water supply to JE-AES affected districts has gone up from 8 lakh (3%) households to 1.19 Crore (39.38%) households and in aspirational districts, it has gone from 24 lakh (7%) households to 1.28 Crore (38%) households.

To ensure safe tap water to children in Schools, Ashramshalas, and Anganwadi centers in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 100-days campaign, which was launched by Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on 2nd October 2020. Tap water provided in learning centers is used by children and teachers for drinking, cooking mid-day meals, hand washing, and in toilets. Till now 8.33 lakh (81.33%) schools and 8.76 lakh (78.48%) Anganwadi centers have been provided tap water supply in their premises. All schools in States/ UTs of A&N Islands, Andhra Pradesh, D&NH and D&D, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttarakhand have been provided with tap water supply.

Following the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SabkaSaath, SabkaVikas, SabkaVishwas, SabkaPrayas’, the motto of the mission is that ‘no one is left out’ and every rural household is provided with tap water connection. At present, every household in 83 districts and more than 1.28 lakh villages is receiving a tap water supply.

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