“जल ही जीवन हैं” – Water is Life

It summer of 2019 and the temperature is rising all over India. One of the reason is General Elections too. Political campaigning are going on. Mandir, Masjid, Pakistan, Jawan, Kisan are the keywords in this elections with the usual employment , poverty reduction etc etc. But while campaigning in this hot weather, when the politician takes a sip of cold water – does he remember about the crisis half of Indians face every day? Forget about politicians, Does the common citizen think about it and will make it an important decision before he votes?

Water is central to human sustenance but millions of Indians do not get enough of it. In 2015, 163 million Indians lacked access to clean water near their homes.

In its manifesto for the 2014 elections, the BJP had promised that the government would “facilitate piped water to all households”.  In its 2019 manifesto it has announced that, if elected back to power, it would launch a ‘Jal Jivan Mission’, under which it will introduce a special programme, ‘Nal se Jal’, to ensure piped water for every household by 2024.

While in 2014, the Congress had made a similar promise, in 2019 it has just said, “The allocation to the National Drinking Water Mission that has suffered neglect under the BJP government will be increased.

Less than 50% habitations have access to the mandated 55 litres of water per day

The quality of water supplied is also a major issue. According to one study in The Lancet, 105,000 children lost their lives in 2015 to water-induced diarrhoea. Official NRDWP data reveals that around 60,000 of all habitations are exposed to water contaminated by arsenic and fluoride, two particularly pernicious chemicals.

Since 2009, different governments have attempted to provide drinking water to people through the National Drinking Water Mission.  Coming into power in 2014, the NDA government continued with the scheme, though it made substantial alterations in 2015. The alteration came along with a 60 per cent reduction in the fund allocation for rural drinking water over its peak year funding in 2012-13, when Rs 10,489 crore was spent on the scheme.

In comparison, in 2015-16, the government spent only Rs 4,369 crore on supplying drinking water to rural habitations. The NDA government began marginal improvement in funding support for the next two years by 37 per cent and 18 per cent over previous years, but in the last financial year, funding support to drinking water supply dried up again, reducing by 22 per cent. The revised expenditure of the Union government on providing drinking water supply came down to Rs 5,500 crore.

“Providing safe and assured drinking water to everyone requires a national focus, which it hasn’t had under this or even the previous government.

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