Few months back I had written a piece “Sadak ya Paani: Lack of Admin Cooperation is Creating Civic Chaos”. I had explained in detail how the blacktopped roads were being damaged to lay water pipes under the Jal Jeevan Mission in J&K. It is understood that while laying these pipelines , the roads have to be dug but there is no official timeframe or deadline to restore these roads again. I know many roads which were blacktopped last year were dug by cranes to lay large drinking water pipes by the contractors hired by Department of PHE Jal Shakti J&K Govt and till date these road surfaces have not been restored. There is no official deadline given regarding restoration of these roads nor are these works properly monitored by the requisite agencies called independent agencies also known as Third Party Inspection and Monitoring Agencies (TPIMA). Even if the third party monitoring is done that is not focussed on the environmental aspect especially the forest landscape.
Third Party Monitoring in J&K
Last year in February Jal Shakti Department, Jammu appointed Delhi-based infrastructure consultancy company, Rudrabhishek Enterprises Ltd (REPL) for inspection and quality monitoring of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) program in 10 districts of Jammu Division. The agreement was signed between Er. Manesh K. Bhat (Chief Engineer, Jal Shakti (PHE) Department, Jammu) and Dr. Harish Sharma Executive Director -REPL. As per the media reports the Executive Director -REPL said that their agency will assist the Jal Shakti Department in effective supervision, quality monitoring and transparency in implementation of JJM in Jammu division.
“We will review, inspect and monitor the construction works, quality tests to verify the adherence of quality control, safety measures, and streamline the quality control and payment process. We will also monitor the functioning of infrastructure during trail run.” said the Executive Director.
When it comes to monitoring of JJM projects in J&K, the PHE Jal Shakti has assigned this work to Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited- WAPCOS which is an Indian consultancy service provider under the ownership of the Government of India and administrative control of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
Even as the Govt appointed these third parties to monitor Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM works in Jammu & Kashmir, their presence is not felt on the ground nor are people aware about them.
If people have concerns about the JJM projects they approach Govt agencies only or PHE Jal Shakti officials , the reason is they are not aware about Third Party Inspection and Monitoring Agencies (TPIMA).
Pertinently, the third party agency WAPCOS which is a government-owned consultancy services firm with about 60-70 employees in Kashmir was not paid the consultancy fees for many months by the Jal Shakti Department. This had caused serious concern and halted the work as well in many areas. This issue was reported by local media last year in September.
One fails to understand how can a third party inspection and monitoring agency -TPIMA work independently or transparently if it relies on the same Govt agency for payment of consultancy fees. The TPIMA cannot work as a watchdog in such circumstances.
Why third party Monitoring?
Considering the quantum of works and constraints, the Government of India has given permission for empanelling the third party inspection agencies for various centrally sponsored schemes. Under JJM this is done to support the village panchayat or local Village Water and Sanitation Committee-VWSC to ensure quality control in implementation of JJM. In order to empanel the agencies as third party inspection agencies, the State Project Management Unit, State Water and Sanitation Mission -SWSM, JJM called for the Expression of Interest (EoI) to show interest in providing the services.
Empanelment of agencies is done based on the experience, human resource and financial capacity of the firm/agency/institution. Once the SWSM releases the empanelled list, the District Water and Sanitation Mission DWSM will select the third party agencies based on the empanelled list. How this has been done in Jammu & Kashmir isn’t known ? Was the District Water and Sanitation Mission -DWSM involved in the selection of third party inspection agencies at the district level people want to know?
The validity of the agencies empanelled through this process in South Indian states like Tamil Nadu is 3 years and it can be extended depending on the requirement of services.I think this would be the same in other states and UTs as well.
The Third Party Monitoring and Inspection Agency -TPMIA is supposed to inspect the quality of the work executed by the agency, quality of the materials used in construction and quality of machinery installed in each scheme.
Scope of work for TPMIA
The Third Party Monitoring and Inspection Agency-TPMIA shall inspect the works combined with the village panchayat or Village Water and Sanitation Committee – VWSC and Rural Development Department. They have a mandate to carry out inspection of all engineering works relating to civil, mechanical and electrical components executed under in-village infrastructure covering the following aspects:
Sample checking, test report of the materials used for construction, quality control measures adopted at the time of construction in the field, safety measures adopted at the time of construction in the field, payment for labour by the executing agency/contractor/ vendor, quantity and quality of works executed as per the bill for payment claimed. The third party can carry out inspection of all engineering works relating to civil, mechanical and electrical components.
Srinagar top ranking district
Srinagar District has been ranked as the top performing District under the national level survey called Jal Jeevan Survekshan (JJS-2023) among 114 Har Ghar Jal Certified districts across the country in the implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM) during October, 01, 2022 to June 30, 2023.Srinagar District has attained the top rank in implementation of JJM by obtaining highest score of 83.0 under set parameters and indicators of JJS-2023. This is indeed a great achievement for J&K but at the same time other districts have to make sure that the infrastructural damages caused due to laying of pipes on metalled roads should be restored within a given time frame. In addition to it the works undertaken in forest and environmentally fragile areas like wetlands, wildlife reserves must be taken up in presence of third party officials and subject matter experts.
No coordination between Govt & TPIMA
More than Rs 5000 crores (Rs 50 Billion) have been allocated by Government of India to J&K under Jal Jeevan Mission this financial year. Large number of projects are being executed by PHE-Jal Shakti Department across the nook and corner of J&K, but during execution of the works large scale vandalization of roads and forest land is taking place. There is no coordination between different Govt agencies and third party inspection and monitoring agencies -TPIMA. Forest landscape is being destroyed openly and there is no one to guide the contractor. Even the third party agency officials , engineers of PHE Jal Shakti or Forest officials are not seen at the site in the remote forest areas where pipelines are laid in clear violation of Indian Forest Act and other environmental laws. The Forest Department is mute spectator and all the work is done by a JCB Crane operator ? This is totally unacceptable. Recently in Yusmarg and Doodh Pathri forests of Budgam I found JCBs and cranes have plundered forest land to lay the drinking water pipelines. I didn’t see the third party monitoring agency, officers of the forest department or local tourism development agency around these sites? The entire forest land has been kept at the disposal of the JCB crane operator and he does what he wants? This is how the system of governance is working?
At a time when massive work is being executed under the national flagship programme Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM, we see our roads being damaged in many areas to lay the drinking water pipelines and these roads not repaired within stipulated time. Let the Govt frame a time period for such repairs as roads damaged last year are still not blacktopped. This winter, people will have to suffer on account of this. Forest land is being plundered by JCBs and third party monitoring agencies never take notice of it ? How can they do justice when they themselves rely on the Govt for payment of Consultancy Fees?