New Delhi, May 21, 2012: Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh Monday admitted in parliament that the government has not yet succeeded in providing the universally recognized minimum quantity of safe water for consumption to people across the country.
Ramesh, who is also in charge of the drinking water and sanitation ministry, made the statement in parliament on Monday during a short duration debate highlighting water scarcity in Rajasthan.
Initiating the debate in the Lok Sabha, Sisram Ola, Congress MP from Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu constituency, pointed out that many parts of the state had water-related problems. While some areas were plagued by scarcity, in others the water available was unfit for drinking because of the high mineral or high flouride content.
In his response, Ramesh said that it was the states that were directly in charge of drawing up programmes for improving drinking water and sanitation. “There is a 40% hike in the budget for drinking water this year,” Ramesh said, adding that Rs. 10,500 crore were earmarked as the budget for this purpose. Of this, Rajasthan’s share is almost 13% or Rs1,300 crore, the minister said, adding that this was because the federal government was aware of the acute water problems facing the state.
“We have not been able to provide 40 litres of water per person,” Ramesh said of the minimum consumption requirement per person a day according to global standards.
A parliamentary standing committee report earlier this month had expressed astonishment at finding that more than Rs. 155,000 crore had been invested by the Central and state governments since the 1950s for achieving the objective of providing safe drinking water to rural India. “However, even after 60 years of implementing the drinking water programmes with different nomenclature and delivery mechanism, there is no unanimity on the figures of coverage,” it had observed.
The report also pointed to discrepancies in various government reports, noting that while the ministry claimed that 74.88% of rural households in India were getting safe and adequate drinking water supply, the National Sample Survey Organisation survey said 90.2% of rural households have access to water from safe sources. The committee recommended that an independent evaluation be carried out to determine the actual number of people having access to potable water. (Source: LiveMint)