Despite the emphasis on Jal Shakti Abhiyan in the second term of the Narendra Modi government and the BJP’s manifesto promise of providing piped water connection to every household (har ghar jal) by 2024, the allocation for the Ministry of Jal Shakti has decreased by almost 10 per cent.
The total budget estimate for the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation and the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation — the ministries that were brought under the umbrella of Jal Shakti Ministry this year — is Rs 28,261 crore. In 2018-19, the combined budget estimate for the two ministries was Rs 31,216 crore.
The decline came even as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke at length on how the ministry is a significant step in the direction of “ensuring India’s water security, and providing access to safe and adequate drinking water to all Indians is a priority of the government”. “The mission… will focus on integrated demand and supply side management of water at the local level, including creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture,” said Sitharaman.
Many schemes of the two departments have seen a marked dip in budgetary allocation over the previous year, including Groundwater Monitoring and Regulation (from Rs 450 crore to Rs 250 crore), National Ganga Plan and Ghat Works (Rs 2,250 crore to Rs 700 crore), and the centrally sponsored component of Har Khet Ko Pani (2,600 crore to Rs 1,069 crore). The National Rural Drinking Water Mission has seen an increase to Rs 10,000 crore from last year’s Rs 7,000 crore. The Rural Development Ministry’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, under which 75 per cent of the permissible works come under the water conservation category, too has not seen any increase from its revised budget of last year.
While rolling out the water conservation efforts in 256 “water-stressed” districts under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan last week, Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had indicated that the mission would largely rely on convergence of existing schemes and on jan andolan (people’s movement), without saying much on the budgetary commitments.
Sanitation to conservation
There is a visible priority shift from sanitation to provision of drinking water and water conservation as evident in Budget 2019-20. The convergence approach and emphasis on people’s participation makes the success of the scheme contingent on the response of individual states.
In her speech on Friday, Sitharaman too spoke of convergence. “The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other central and state government schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country,” she said. She added that “besides using funds available under various schemes, the government will also explore the possibility of using additional funds available under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for this purpose.”
However, the CAMPA fund is meant to be utilised for greening activity to compensate for the forests that are lost to industrialisation and other development works. A Supreme Court order earlier this year directed that Rs 54,000 crore worth of CAMPA funds be transferred to a central government authority.
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As per government figures, rural India has almost attained Open Defecation Free status under the Swachh Bharat Mission but the issue of solid waste management in villages remains to be dealt with. Acknowledging this, Sitharaman said, “More than 5.6 lakh villages have become Open Defecation Free (ODF). We have to build on this success. We must not only sustain the behavioural change seen in people but also harness the latest technologies available to transform waste into energy. I now propose to expand the Swachh Bharat Mission to undertake sustainable solid waste management in every village.”
This time, the Swachh Bharat Mission has registered over 30 per cent drop in allocation — from Rs 15,343 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 9,994 crore in 2019-20.