Money allocated to Bengal for Jal Jeevan Mission remained unspent in last fiscal: Shekhawat

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (PTI) Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Thursday said the money allocated to West Bengal for the Jal Jeevan Mission remained unspent in the last fiscal and rued the state has not shown cooperation on the issue.

Replying to a question in Lok Sabha, Shekhawat said whenever he calls a meeting to discuss the progress of the scheme, neither the minister concerned nor any official from the state attends it.

He, however, added that officials do attend meetings whenever the Jal Shakti Ministry's secretary holds a meeting.

'We are constantly requesting the state government but unfortunately the West Bengal has not shown cooperation at least on this issue,' the minister said during the Question Hour.

The reply from the minister came in response to the question from Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. The opposition member had asked about the situation in West Bengal's Murshidabad district where villagers are suffering due to arsenic contamination.

'In West Bengal over 2.5 crore people stay in arsenic contaminated area... There is no information with us as to what is the situation of Bengal and our district due to this arsenic pollution,' Chowdhury said.

Minister Shekhawat said that 'we have given priority to quality, quantity and continuity in Jal Jeevan Mission and we have also allocated funds to the state government accordingly.' 'If we talk in the perspective of West Bengal, in 2019-20 when this scheme was implemented then the state government had Rs 760 crore as opening balance for the National Rural Drinking Water Mission. First instalment of fund allocation which is around Rs 1,000 crore was done for the state government,' he said.

'West Bengal had a budgetary provision of Rs 1,755 crore that year but the state government had reported utilisation of Rs 600 crore in that year. Rs 445 crore was unutilised by them (West Bengal)... The state has still not been able to utilise Rs 583 crore,' the minister explained.

Jal Jeevan Mission aims to provide functional tap water connections to all rural households by 2024.

'There was a submission in National Rural Drinking Water Programme which was for quality affected areas. For this we gave special money to all those states in which there was such problem and it was done with an expectation that till March 31 those projects should be completed by the state government in such areas,' Shekhawat said.

'With great sorrow I want to say that West Bengal today after completion of three years, till today almost half of the money from that is unspent,' the minister said. PTI SID SID ANB ANB ANB