Finance panel gives a Rs1.42 lakh crore push to water and sanitation programmes

In a huge push for assured tap water supply to every home and improved sanitation in villages, the 15th Finance Commission has proposed tied grants amounting to Rs1,42,084 crore to rural local bodies (RLBs)/ panchayats for water and sanitation for the five years 2021-22 to 2025-26.

The tied grants will ensure more funds to gram panchayats to make their water supply and sanitation-related plans implemented and gram panchayats can function as local ‘public utilities’ with a focus on ‘service delivery. 
This will have a huge impact on ensuring these services in villages and thus on public health and quality of life in rural areas. 
This is a big step towards strengthening local self-governments and is in line with the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India, a government release stated.
The Department of Expenditure of the finance ministry has issued the guidelines for release and utilisation of grants recommended by the 15th Finance Commission for RLBs/ PRIs during the period 2021–22 to 2025–26. The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), under the ministry of Jal Shakti, will act as the nodal department for determining the eligibility of the rural local bodies across the country for the tied grant and also recommend release of such grants to the Department of Expenditure.
DDWS has recommended release of first installment of tied grant to 25 states for water and sanitation activities and onward transfer to RLBs/PRIs. With Rs50,000-crore budgetary support by the centre, Rs30,000 crore state’s share for Jal Jeevan Mission and this year’s allocation of Rs28,000 crore under 15th tied grant for water and sanitation, more than one Rs1 lakh crore funds are available for making provision of piped water supply in villages. This will have a huge impact on the rural economy.
To enable RLBs/ panchayats to perform their functions as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission, states’ Water & Sanitation/ Rural Water Supply/ Public Health Engineering Departments will provide technical assistance to these panchayats/ RLBs. 
Ministry of Jal Shakti has prepared a manual for utilisation of funds and the same has been made available to all state governments. They have been requested to get the manual translated into vernacular language and to make these available to every village panchayat. A massive drive is to be taken to sensitise, train and empower the panchayat functionaries to utilise this fund to ensure tap water supply and improved sanitation in villages.
In all, the 15th Finance Commission has recommended Rs2,36,805 crore to RLBs/ PRIs for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26. Commission has identified ‘water supply and sanitation’ as national priority areas, which determines the quality of life of people living in rural areas. It has recommended 60 pe cent of the allocation to RLBs/ panchayats, ie, Rs1,42, 084 crore as tied grant to be utilised for:
  • Supply of drinking water, rainwater harvesting and water recycling; and 
  • Sanitation and maintenance of open-defecation free (ODF) status. 
 
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ensuring assured potable tap water supply to every household and improved sanitation, the centrak government is working in partnership with states to ensure these two basic services in rural areas - assured availability of potable drinking water in adequate quantity, of prescribed quality at household level on a regular and long-term basis, and improved sanitation an hygiene that would have a significant impact on public health and better socio-economic condition of people. To ensure water supply and sanitation services, earmarking such a substantial amount by 15th Finance Commission for basic water and sanitation services in villages is a huge step to ensure tap water supply and improved sanitation in the villages.
Since August 2019, Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) has been under implementation in partnership with states:
  • To make provision of tap water supply to every rural home, and 
  • Ensuring ‘no one is left out’ with an outlay of Rs3.60 lakh crore. 
The transformational mission will enable every rural household to get drinking water supply on a regular and long-term basis at affordable service delivery charges, thereby improving the quality of life and enhancing the ‘ease of living’ of people living in villages.
During the last seven years, huge efforts and investments have been made to enable villages to become Open Defecation Free (ODF), and to sustain these efforts, Swachchh Bharat Mission (SBM) Phase-II is under implementation with an objective to achieve ODF plus status of villages in the country. The focus is on solid and liquid waste management, plastic free villages and ensuring ODF status of villages.
For effective utilisation of the tied grant for water and sanitation, states need to identify nodal departments and put in place the system in accordance with the guidelines during 15th Finance Commission period. Further, massive training/ orientation programme for the people of rural local bodies/ panchayati raj institutions on various aspects of the tied- rants, its release, and utilisation, planning and execution work, audit and accounting, etc are to be organised. For this purpose, DDWS has selected 84 eminent institutions as Key Resource Centres (KRCs) and to impart training and capacity building of RLBs/ gram panchayats for ensuring assured water supply, improved sanitation, and hygiene in the country.
Stress is given on putting in place a robust ‘operation and maintenance’ policy in states to recover service charges from households in line with the recommendations of the successive Finance Commissions to meet the recurring expenditure on rural water supply and sanitation services in villages for long-term and assured service delivery.