Work underway in projects worth Rs 1.91 lakh crore under Jal Jeevan Mission: Shekhawat in RS

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New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) Work is underway in projects worth Rs 1.91 lakh crore under the flagship 'Jal Jeevan Mission', which seeks to provide drinking water to every rural household in the country, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Replying to Monday's discussion on the working of the Jal Shakti Ministry, Shekhawat said the Centre was in touch with the states for effective implementation of the projects, and lashed out at the Congress for 'smiling at the plight of people' facing acute water crisis during its regime.

Terming the scenario challenging, Shekhawat said a slew of steps were initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he understood the plight, pain and sufferings of the people.

'Water crisis can have a negative impact on the GDP by six per cent,' the Jal Shakti minister said, and added that India's water requirement would double by 2030 and grow four times by 2050.

He said a Jal Shakti ministry campaign would be launched on March 22 in 700 districts, and added, 'The prime minister has fixed 2024 as the target for water to every home.' Attacking opposition members for raising questions over the intent of the government, Shekhawat pointed out that more than 3.77 crore households were provided tap water connections under the mission. 'Modi hai to mumkin hai (Modi can make it possible),' he added.

'Jal Jeevan Mission', a Rs 3.6-lakh crore flagship programme of the Narendra Modi government, aims to provide tap water connections to all rural households by 2024.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had on Monday slammed the government for not utilising the allocated funds for various projects and programmes in the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

'Questions are being raised on my competence, acceptance, ability for governance... over non-utilisation of funds,' Shekhawat said, adding that it was time for opposition-led state governments, including Punjab, West Bengal and Jharkhand, to introspect as to why the funds remained unspent.

This was objected to by Congress members Pratap Singh Bajwa and Anand Sharma, among others.

Tapped water connection rose by 20 per cent in the entire country, but in West Bengal, it was only three per cent, Shekhawat said.

He praised the Telangana government for working to provide tap water to each and every household in the state, and added that in Gujarat, 83 per cent of the people had tap water connections, while in Himachal Pradesh, it was 76 per cent.

Recalling his childhood days in Jaisalmer, where he was born, Shekhawat said women used to carry water on their heads for miles, and added that India has 18 per cent of the world's total area but barely four per cent of its potable water.

'India has many challenges. The dangers of climate change are being felt across the world, climate change has arrived. Rainfall patterns have changed,' he said.

Shekhawat said with the initiatives of the Centre from remote areas in Leh and Ladakh to Jaisalmer and Saurashtra, people were getting potable water at home.

'Tanker mafia in Kutch and Saurashtra were active earlier, I am sure that the mafia is known to Digvijaya Singh. Narendra Modi became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001, and if anyone worked to plug the shortage of water, it was Modiji,' he said.

Taking a dig at Singh, he said the PM Modi-led government believed in working for all, and not for appeasement of a section or for the 'vote bank'.

Shekhawat said about 2.5 lakh representatives in gram sabhas were sent personalised letters by Prime Minister Modi to conserve water, and meetings were held in two lakh villages.

'As many as 256 districts were identified, officials were sent to these districts and were apprised on afforestation, water conservation etc,' he said.

The Centre has initiated extensive work on water quality, and soon a repository on water quality will be available, Shekhawat added.

'A platform is being created where reports can be registered to create a repository to frame policies accordingly. Censor-based technology is also being promoted to assess water quality,' he said.

Listing improvements in water quality, the minister claimed anyone can now drink the water of the Ganga from Gangotri or Devprayag to Haridwar, and marine life was flourishing.

He said his ministry was given a Rs 60,000-crore grant, of which Rs 50,011 crore was meant for drinking water.

'For Ganga Mission and PMSKY, it was alleged that we did not spend money,' the minister said, adding projects worth Rs 30,000 crore are ongoing under these.

To expedite these, hybrid annuity mode (HAM) has been initiated under which 40 per cent viability gap funding is provided upfront, he added. PTI NAM IJT