Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her maiden budget speech that the newly set up Jal Shakti Ministry will work with states to ensure that every rural house gets water by 2024 under the Jal Jeevan Mission. Her pledge of "har ghar jal" got massive applause at the Lok Sabha this morning. This promise came soon after her promise that every single rural family, except those unwilling to take connection, will get an electricity and LPG connection by 2022.
Of course, pre-Budget speculation was rife that Sitharaman would focus on 'jal' or water to bring smiles to rural India through the Modi 2.0 government's flagship Nal se Jal scheme that aims to provide piped water supply for every household. The scheme comes under the ambit of the Jal Shakti Ministry, which has merged the ministries of water resources, river development and Ganga Rejuvenation with the Drinking Water and Sanitation portfolio. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took charge of this new ministry on May 31.
The Jal Shakti Ministry has been set up at a time when a heat wave is currently sweeping north India and the delayed monsoon has delivered 38 per cent lower-than normal rainfall since the start of the season on June 1. The future looks far more dire. By 2020, India will be formally categorized as a "water stressed" country, one where per capita availability of water is less than 1,000 cubic metres or less. A June 2018 Niti Ayog report grimly forecasts water demand will be twice the present supply and India could lose up to 6 per cent of its GDP.
So the new ministry - which also take on issues ranging from the byzantine Namami Gange project and the controversial river linkage programme to the national mission on irrigation for providing water to every field - has its work cut out.
"Measures announced by the FM for water management would go a long way in an area that requires an urgent fix. The mission of Har Ghar Jal by 2024 is laudatory," said Pranay Bhatia, Partner, BDO India.