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Rihon blames slow progress on pandemic

 GUWAHATI, June 10 - After drawing flak for the tardy progress of projects under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), Public Health Engineering Minister Rihon Daimari today blamed it on the COVID-19 pandemic, which, he said, was the prime reason behind disruption of the development works.

 The minister said the public health engineering (PHE) department could not achieve the target set by the Central government under the JJM for the 2019-20 financial year due to the lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had written to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressing his concern over the slow progress of the JJM developmental projects in Assam.

The Centre had set a target of 11.58 lakh households to be covered under the potable water supply connection during 2019-20, although the State could cover only 48,908 households till March-end.

Daimari said the State had received the JJM guidelines in the last part of 2019 and its implementation started from January this year, thereby contributing to the delay.

“The target set by the Centre was virtually impossible to achieve within three months. Still, the department had tried its best to cover as many households as possible during the limited time frame,” reasoned the minister.

He further informed that under the JJM, the State government has set a target of covering 61.75 lakh households within 2024, of which the department envisages to cover 13.15 lakh households within the current financial year.

“An annual action plan has been formulated for which the Centre has already approved a fund of Rs 1,407.07 crore,” he divulged.

Under the action plan, the department will strengthen 1,817 old and 1,238 underconstruction water supply projects. Moreover, works of 5,016 new small and medium water supply projects will be started under the same action plan.

The action plan further aims to reach out to the weaker sections of the society and SC and ST people, along with Japanese encephalitis affected localities on priority basis.

The minister asserted that the department aims to cover 100 per cent households with potable water supply in 5,065 villages and 107 panchayats.

Under the JJM, 726 unemployed and semi-literate youths will avail training in different skills, including plumbing, electrical works, etc., for which the government has allocated a fund of Rs 2.08 crore. To monitor the water quality and water pollution levels, local youth will get employment as ‘jaal doot’ in each locality.

The minister said altogether 2,523 arsenic-affected and 64 fluoride-affected localities have so far been identified in the State and all these places will also come under the action plan.

Significantly, in the last financial year, under the National Water Quality Sub-Mission, which aims to provide safe drinking water to arsenic and fluoride affected areas of the country, Assam has spent Rs 20.78 crore out of the total allocated amount of Rs 288.34 crore.

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