NEW DELHI: As poll-bound Bihar sets a target to cover its all 1.9 crore rural households with tap connections for drinking water supply by next year, it’ll become the first among what used to be called the BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) to achieve the target of ‘Har Ghar Jal’ under the Centre’s ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), a full three years ahead of the national goal of 2024.
The swift pace of work has given the JD(U)-BJP alliance important talking points in the campaign as a large of number of households covered under the programme are being logged into its system, setting an example for other populous states. The JJM aims to cover the country’s over 19 crore rural households by 2024.
Among the other three states, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are expected to complete the mission only by 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively. In fact, all these states have, so far, covered much less than the national average (nearly 30%) of rural households with functional household tap connection (FHTC) under the JJM which was launched in August last year.
This Mission aims at ensuring potable water supply in adequate quantity (55 litres per person per day) and of prescribed quality to every rural household on regular and long-term basis with the aim of improving access and also in the process improving health outcomes and overcoming social barriers that disadvantaged communities face in reaching shared water sources.
Bihar was working on such a programme even before the announcement of the JJM and has, so far, covered over 83% of its total 1.9 crore rural households with one of its districts, East Champaran, already achieving its target and 17 others covering over 90% of their total rural households with tap water supply.
There are number of issues including health infrastructure, migration, educational facilities and jobs which may be played out during the ongoing campaign for the Assembly polls, but drinking water supply to every household is the major one in the state which has more or less overcome the other critical issue of road infrastructure — the one which had dominated the public discourse in the state for many years during earlier polls.
Analysis of district-wise performance of all 38 districts of Bihar under the JJM shows that there are many districts which are quite far from achieving their targets in terms of covering their rural households with FHTC. The worst among low performers include Kishanganj, Katihar, Araria and Purnia. These are the districts which are part of the historically neglected Seemanchal.
As far as other states are concerned, Telangana with covering 98% of its rural households with tap water supply is the best performer and is expected to achieve its target in next few months. Though Goa claims to have already achieved its target of 100% FHTC this month, the task was not tough for this small state right from the beginning as it has only 2.63 lakh of rural households.
As per the JJM timeline, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim will cover all of their rural households by 2022 while Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Chhattisgarh will achieve their target by 2023.
The states which will reach their goal of 100% FHTC by 2024 include Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
The Mission has a total budget of Rs 3.60 lakh crore which includes central share of Rs 2.08 lakh crore. The remaining Rs 1.52 lakh crore is to be borne by the states.
“In order to expedite the provision of tap water connection in every rural home within their promised deadline, the state governments are also focusing on low-hanging fruits like retrofitting/ augmentation of existing water supply systems to provide connections to remaining households which have been left out in such villages,” said an official of the ‘Jal Shakti’ (water resources) ministry.
He said the left out households in such villages generally belonged to poor and marginalized sections of society.
Under the JJM, the priority is currently being given to saturating villages in water-scarce and water-quality affected areas, aspirational districts, SC/ST dominated villages/ habitations and villages coming under ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna’(SAGY).