BENGALURU: The Jal Jeevan Mission is the Central Government’s flagship programme to provide clean drinking water tap connections to all rural households by 2024. The Centre is constantly monitoring its implementation and has directed the Karnataka government to pull up its socks and be in tune with national progress.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is driving the project, told TNSE that Karnataka is a slow-progressing state and needs to work hard. On the Mekedatu project, the minister says that both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu should sit together and resolve it.
Excerpts from an interview:
What is the Centre’s stand on the Mekedatu project?
It is a historical dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Government of India has to be impartial and do justice to all states. We will work on that principle.
Karnataka has made it clear that Mekedatu is a drinking water project and will not have any impact on release of Tamil Nadu’s share of water?
It (the dispute) should be a subject of hydrology and engineering, but unfortunately it has become a subject of emotions and politics. It is not a healthy development. A final decision has to be taken with the consensus of all the states. We will discuss it with all and get it done.
Will you make that effort? Will you be calling a meeting anytime soon?
Certainly, it’s my duty. If required, we can call a meeting. Also, if the states are not agreeing due to some political reasons, we have to identify other options. Resources cannot be wasted because of resistance of one or the other state. Ultimately, any issue can be resolved through discussion. Both states should sit together and discuss it.
The perception here is that TN is putting pressure and that is why the Centre is going slow?
No, I don’t think so. The matter is sub-judice as states have challenged it in Apex Court.
How is Karnataka’s performance as regards Jal Jeevan Mission?
Karnataka is a slow-progressing state. We reviewed its implementation with the CM and officers and told them what exactly is the situation in the country and what is being done in Karnataka. We told them to speed up its implementation. The national average has reached almost 41%, whereas in Karnataka, it is around 34%. They need to work hard.
The state has set a target of 25 lakh connections in this financial year. Will that bring the state on par with the national average?
They should work hard to achieve it. It is not unachievable and it can be done, provided they work hard.
Any specific aspects the state needs to focus on?
Jal Jeevan Mission is not only a programme of infrastructure creation for water supply. Many districts in Karnataka lack sustainable sources. They need to prepare for it. Service delivery is the most important part of the mission. Functionality or service delivery depends on three different components — quantity, quality and frequency. Quantity is fixed at 55 Litres Per Capita per Day. The prescribed quality has to be ensured and regularity has to be maintained. When we conducted a nationwide survey by a third party, we found that Karnataka is doing okay in quantity and regularity standards. In those aspects, it is performing good, but still, a lot needs to be done in terms of quality standards. There is contamination in ground water.
What is being done to ensure that quality standards is maintained?
Quality is important as you should know and it is your right to know the quality of water you are drinking. We have decided to have one accredited laboratory to check water quality in all districts across the country. We have given money to states. In the next stage, we will take them to block level.
It is considered the most ambitious project of the Modi Government. What is the total cost of the project; are you confident of achieving the 2024 target?
We have set 2024 as the target and the way we are going ahead, I am sure we will complete the Rs 3,60,000 crore project within that time. Of that, Rs 2,40,000 crore will be spent by the Government of India and the remaining by state governments.
What is the status of declaring the Upper Bhadra project as a national project?
Giving national project status is a prerogative of the Prime Minister or Cabinet. The issue has not reached the competent authority yet. There were some observations from the Central Water Commission and that was fulfilled by the state. The Investment Committee and Technical Committee has cleared it. Now, we need to go through other formalities. There is a Group of Secretaries, which assesses the project and its potential and they recommend it to the cabinet for declaring it as a national project. Currently, it is in that stage.
Karnataka and Maharashtra are demanding notification of the Krishna River Water Tribunal order.
The cases are in the SC.