With the tests crossing 1 lakh mark and the state’s health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma promising that the test numbers will reach 2 lakh mark by June 15th, Assam is showing a remarkable fight against Covid-19. Beyond this, the fact that the state of Assam has not stayed behind in planning for other things while fighting the pandemic is attractive to governance enthusiasts.
Recently, Assam has submitted the action plan to Ministry of Jal Shakti. Under the plan, the state has proposed to provide tap connections to 13 lakh households out of a total of 63 lakhs. The Government of India approved ₹1,407 Crore for 2020-21 under Jal Jeevan Mission to the state of Assam. But the way the state is paying attention to utilizing this fund and synergizing it with mitigation of problems posed by Corona perhaps makes the action plan special.
Water and the Migrants
A large chunk of migrants who went to other states have returned to Assam in this crisis situation. The action plan focuses on using their skills in providing water to the households. This gives employment to many people in this troubling time, and also results in creating a network of water for the public good.
The action plan states that these migrant labourers are basically skilled and semi-skilled ones, whose services can be utilized in by providing jobs related to water supply especially plumbing, fitting, water conservation works, etc. in every village to ensure sufficient ground water availability. This in turn will lead to water security, water availability for agriculture, and most importantly will help in provision of drinking water to every rural household.
The action plan also emphasizes on the importance of providing tap water to households especially in Corona situation. It notes that it is important to avoid public congregation at public water sources, thereby making it more important to provide water directly to the households.
The Rural Focus
Assam Jal Jeevan Mission proposed to focus on the villages initially. There are multiple reasons for Assam to adopt this approach. The laborers who returned from other states have gone to their villages now, and they need to be given an opportunity for livelihood. In villages, there is already a semblance of tap water network, and using this mission the Assam administration wants to strengthen existing drinking water sources for long-term sustainability of drinking water supply systems.
To achieve this at the village level, the convergence of various programmes comes in handy. MGNREGS, SBM (G), 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs, District Mineral Development Fund, CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority), Local Area Development Fund, etc. at village level is being tapped with meticulous planning for judicious use.
Jal Jeevan Mission encourages participation of local community in surveillance of water quality. In line with this requirement, the state has proposed the identification of at least five women in every village, and training them for use of Field Test Kits to report and collate reports including laboratory-based findings of the water sources.