WITH an aim of providing clean drinking water to every household in India, the Government of India launched Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) around 4 years back. This centrally sponsored scheme was formally launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August 2019. The aim of JJM is to provide ‘Functional Household Tap Connections’ (FHTC) to every rural household in India by 2024. The Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM is aimed at creating a people’s movement — Jan Andolan for water.
Pertinently, in Jammu & Kashmir a major chunk of this year’s annual budget has gone to the water sector. More than Rs 5000 crores (Rs 50 Billion) have been allocated by Government of India to J&K under Jal Jeevan Mission and we can see a large number of projects being executed by PHE-Jal Shakti Department across J&K.
At a time when massive work is being executed under this national flagship programme, we see our roads being damaged in many areas to lay the drinking water pipelines. Infact the damage being caused to roads to lay water pipelines is not a new but this has been prevalent in the past as well due to a lack of coordination and proper governance.
It is quite evident that there is hardly any coordination between the Public Works Department- (PWD -R&B), PM Gram Sadak Yojna-PMGSY & PHE Jal Shakti Departments. Roads which were metalled and blacktopped have been dug down by the contractors using JCB cranes within months and nobody knows when these roads will ever be repaired back.
No coordination between PHE & PMGSY
According to a news report published in some local dailies of Srinagar last year, a road which was blacktopped after a decade was damaged within months by the Public Health Engineering Department -PHE in Shopian. The blacktopped road from Kellar to Pehlipora villages in Shopian district was metalled and blacktopped under the national rural roads programme called Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna- PMGSY after 15 years. Within two months of construction of this beautiful road, the PHE Jal Shakti contractors came and started digging the road surface to lay water pipeline under Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM. This caused massive damage to the road.
Pertinently, the PMGSY roads are not wide enough and when they are dug it causes a lot of damage to them. Even the drains that are constructed also get damaged. This news was reported by several newspapers but authorities were unmoved. This is not a single case but there are dozens of such cases happening daily in J&K but such issues get unreported now as this has become a routine exercise.
It was reported by local newspapers that no official permission was sought from PMGSY by the PHE Jal Shakti department in the Kellar Pehlipora road digging case. The Assistant Executive Engineer -AEE PMGSY Shopian said this on record and he was even quoted by news agency KNO as well. The engineer said that PMGSY had constructed the road just two months back and the PHE Jal Shakti department damaged it without even obtaining a No Objection Certificate -NOC. The PMGSY had even threatened to lodge an FIR against the contractors. When the local PHE Jal Shakti Assistant Engineer was asked by reporters as to why they damaged the road surface constructed by PMGSY he had said that they had a valid permission as a joint permission has been sought at higher level to open up all those PMGSY roads where they intend to lay water pipelines under JJM. The officer has assured that roads would be repaired if they get damaged but on the ground this isn’t happening as of now.
Nowhar Changund Road
After repeated requests, the work on Nowhar Chanagund road in Charari Sharief Budgam was taken up by PWD (R&B) last year in July and within a few months the road surface was opened up using JCB cranes to lay water-pipelines by PHE Jal Shakti contractors under JJM. I raised this issue from ground zero but to no avail.
As our legislative assembly is also in a state of suspended animation, these issues are not even raised on the floor of the house. The institution of District Development Council -DDC is yet to get evolved and most of these members are not taken seriously by our bureaucracy.
If PWD R&B had plans to repair this 2 kms link road, wasn’t it the duty of the then local Executive Engineer PWD -R&B to have a meeting with his PHE Jal Shakti counterpart?
Had the R&B Executive Engineer waited for two more months, the road would not have been damaged and drinking water pipeline would have been laid and the road would also have been repaired and macadamised. Now this road surface is in shambles again and till date the road has not been repaired back. Infact information under RTI Act was also with regard to this issue but there was no positive response from the Government’s end.
JJM in J&K
The substantial increase in Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM) budget every year in J&K makes it evident that Govt of India is concerned about addressing drinking water issues in Jammu & Kashmir and towards materializing its commitment of providing tap water connections to every household plus capacity building of Water Quality Management through testing, monitoring and surveillance. J&K contemplates becoming ‘HAR GHAR JAL’ Union Territory by the financial year 2022-23 and to achieve this target, the Government officials aren’t caring much for proper coordination with PMGSY,PWD-R&B during laying of water pipelines. As per a 2022 report, 18.35 lakh rural households in J&K, 10.39 lakh households have tap water connections which is around 57 %. Srinagar and Ganderbal districts have already achieved the target of having 100 % households with tap water connections.
It is evident that Govt officers are forced to achieve targets under Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM by their seniors and that is the reason we lack coordination between various Govt organisations and engineering wings while executing JJM projects in J&K. This has resulted in complete chaos and confusion. At a time when people are being supplied with portable drinking water through taps, a huge population in many districts of J&K are deprived of good road connectivity. Blacktopping and metalling of roads is going on at great pace nowadays but we don’t know when these roads will be damaged again. The Govt must address this issue as the digging of roads has become a routine exercise in J&K and taxpayers money is getting wasted.