Only 3.23 Crore rural households out of a total 19.18 Crore households had piped water connections.
Women and girls in India spend a considerable time (up to 352 minutes/day) performing domestic chores. This is 577% more than their male counterparts (52 minutes) and 40% more than women in South Africa and China (OECD data).
Collecting drinking water for their families constitutes a major part of it. This poses a major barrier to the enrollment of girls in schools, especially those belonging to poor households. The magnitude of the problem can be imagined as over 11 Crore rural women are pegged to be below the poverty line in India (Planning Commission estimates, 2004-05).
Variability in water supply due to heavy dependence on monsoon rains and groundwater adds up to their vagaries. It exacerbates gender inequality. In India, about 70% of the rainfall is received during the monsoon season and its intensity varies each year, from one region to another. As a result, 42% of the Indian landmass is rendered drought prone (Drought Early Warning systems report: March 2019). It is well known that extreme weather events like droughts have a devastating impact on weaker sections of society as they lose out on livestock and crop yield.
Food prices shoot up and it has a crippling effect on their health and nutrition, ultimately affecting human capital. Women and girl child, in particular, bear the brunt and are most adversely affected. It leads to their stunted growth, which further translates through generations.
Highlights the study:
As per World Bank report, it was observed that women who have experienced a large number of dry shocks (below-average rainfall) during infancy are 29% more likely to have their child suffer through some anthropometric failure - that is, being significantly below average size in terms of height for age, or weight for age, or weight for height.
This reflects the urgency to provide potable water to every household to secure our human capital and to prevent stunting of our future generations.
Providing water to every household is an inescapable duty of any Government. Water is the elixir of life and “is deemed to be a merit good that is something to which people have a right, regardless of ability to pay because it is essential for life.”
It is enshrined as a Human Right in Resolution Number 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly, which calls upon Governments to ensure adequate and affordable quantities of safe water for domestic use.
The entire Mission follows a bottom-up approach:
It requires the formation of Village Water & Sanitation Committees/Pani Samitis that will prepare a 5-year Village Action Plan consisting of drinking water source strengthening, water supply, greywater management, and operation & maintenance so that people in the villages get assured tap water supply on regular basis uninterruptedly.
Interestingly, these committees are mandated to have 50% women members, since women are the most affected stakeholders and their participation is seen as a crucial input for its effective implementation.
Moreover, it is a fact that Panchayats with greater women membership have performed better in projects like drinking water supply, sanitation, etc. (UN Report). Further, a suitable representation of the weaker section of the society is there in the Pani Samiti. Thus, this mission seeks to provide a platform for their participation as well as empowerment.
Lastly, Information Technology has been leveraged to collate and display real-time nationwide water data on a portal www.ejalshakti.gov.in.
A Rashtriya Jal Jeevan Kosh (RJJK.) is set up for accepting contributions from corporates, organizations, and individuals, who have moved from villages but still nurture love for their native place. Soon, they will be able to donate, at the click of the mouse, for specific water supply related works by interacting with the members of Pani Samiti through this portal.