New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s ambitious Nal Se Jal scheme, which aims to provide potable water to 18 lakh rural households by 2024, will be based on a ‘unique’ model under which villagers will themselves decide how much to pay for the water they consume.
For example, large families will pay more as their consumption will naturally be higher, while poor families or those with no earning member will pay less, officials in the Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which is piloting the scheme, told ThePrint.
Under the scheme, the government will provide a minimum of 55 litres of water per person per day.
Gujarat model was the inspiration
The inspiration for this model came from Gujarat’s potable water supply scheme implemented by the Water & Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO).
The WASMO scheme helped 79 per cent rural households in Gujarat get potable water supply, which is the second-highest number in the country after Goa.
In Gujarat, ‘paani samitis’ (water committees) have been set up in every village, which decide the amount of tariff to be charged from the consumers. The final approval is given by the gram sabha. The committees comprise 10 to 15 elected members of the panchayat, of which 50 per cent are women.
Nal Se Jal will also have villagers/community bear 10 per cent of the capital cost of a project under the scheme — either in cash or kind (in the form of labour). This was implemented in Gujarat too.
But unlike the Gujarat scheme, Nal Se Jal will give concession to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and those living in hilly areas as they will have to bear only 5 per cent capital cost of a project.
Once the project is completed, the villagers will get back their money, and the responsibility for its maintenance and operation will be given to them.
“The decentralised model helps in giving a sense of ownership to the villagers. It also encourages community participation. The central government is there for providing most of the funds and hand-holding, but it is the villagers who will decide what they want,” said Bharat Lal, additional secretary in the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Lal was associated with WASMO too when it was set up in 2002.
44% of this fiscal’s fund released to states
That the focus of the government is on securing the water sector in rural India is evident from the fact that since 13 August — when Nal Se Jal was approved by the union cabinet — Rs 4,400 crore from the overall allocation of Rs 10,000 crore has been released to state governments.
In total, Rs 3.6 lakh crore has been earmarked for ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ for five years and Nal Se Jal is one of the main focus areas of the mission. Of this, 50 per cent will be borne by the central government, while the states will bear the remaining 50 per cent. For union territories, the central government will give 100 per cent funding.
For the Northeastern states, the central government’s share will be 90 per cent, while states will fund the remaining 10 per cent.
“We are focussing on both scale and speed,” a senior ministry official, who did not want to be named, said.
The official added that since August, consultations with regional stakeholders have been held in Guwahati (Assam), Puri (Odisha), Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Chandigarh and Delhi.
All beneficiaries will be linked to Aadhaar
The government will also be relying on technology for proper execution of the scheme.
To ensure transparency, all beneficiaries will be linked to Aadhaar. “It will help us to check if the person getting the water connection is genuine or not,” the official quoted above said.
Besides, all assets built under Nal Se Jal will be geo-tagged. “We are also discussing if we can have sensor-based water supply to every household. This will help us know exactly the amount of water being supplied to households,” the official added.
The government will also get a third-party to inspect the scheme, mainly to see if money has been utilised properly and whether projects have been constructed following the guidelines.