Union Ministry conveys serious concern to State
Vast population remains deprived of safe, adequate drinking water
JAMMU, Mar 24: In a big question mark on its performance, the Department of Public Health Engineering (PHE) has failed to utilize over Rs 155 crore Central assistance provided under National Rural Drinking Water Programme during the current financial year. Due to this, vast population in rural areas of the State has remained deprived of safe and adequate drinking water.
The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) is aimed at providing every rural person with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis.
The NRDWP has several components and the most important among them pertains to coverage—for providing safe and adequate drinking water supply to un-served, partially served and slipped back habitations. About 47% of the annual NRDWP funds are allocated for coverage on the basis of prescribed inter-state allocation criteria. The funding pattern for Jammu and Kashmir under this component is 90:10.
However, due to slackness on the part of authorities of the Public Health Engineering Department of the State an amount of Rs 155.92 crore has remained unspent as on March 21, 2019 as a result of which vast population in rural areas of the State could not obtain benefit of the scheme exclusively tailored for them.
Anguished over such a huge amount remaining unspent at a time when the current financial year is going to end within next few days, the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has dashed a communication to the Commissioner/Secretary to Government, Department of Public Health Engineering expressing serious concern over the slackness on the part of the concerned authorities in utilization of funds.
“The first instalment of funds under NRDWP is released after subsuming excess Opening Balance beyond 10% of release of previous year. However, perusal of Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) data shows that an amount of Rs 155.92 crore is lying as unspent balance as on March 21, 2019, which is more than permissible unspent balance of 10% of the releases made during 2018-19”, read the Letter No.W-11042/13/2019/ Water-I dated March 22, 2019 addressed to Commissioner/ Secretary to Government, PHE Department by Director of Department of Drinking Water of Union Ministry Rajesh Kumar, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
The Director has asked the State Government to expedite the booking of expenditure and updation of the same in IMIS at an early date to enable the Union Ministry to release full first instalment (50%) of allocation in the beginning of financial year 2019-20.
“How the Department of PHE can spend Rs 155.92 crore within a period of one week and communicate the same to the Union Ministry well in time remains a million dollar question”, sources said, adding “in all probability the State is unlikely to get full first instalment of next financial year in the beginning”.
As per the communication of the Union Ministry, an amount of Rs 0.56 crore is also lying unspent under NRDWP calamity component. “The funds under this component are utilized to mitigate drinking water problems in the rural areas in the wake of natural calamities”, sources said.
The analysis of the Union Ministry’s data reveals that Jammu and Kashmir is among the four worst performing States in respect of utilization of funds under NRDWP coverage component. The other three States are Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Assam. The adjoining States of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have only Rs 15.36 crore and Rs 14.53 crore respectively as unspent balance under NRDWP coverage component.
“The inability to utilize such a huge amount is really a blot on the performance of Department of Public Health Engineering”, sources said, adding “the responsibility is required to be fixed as due to non-utilization of funds vast population has remained deprived of the benefit of the Central assistance”.