Clearing the water: on piped, potable water to rural households

India must give a bigger push to scheme to deliver potable water 

July 04, 2023 12:10 am | Updated 10:01 am IST

Access to potable tap water is a basic necessity. However, of the roughly 25 crore households in India (2016), a tap water connection that delivers 55 litres per capita every day of potable water is a rarity in most of rural India, which accounts for about 19.5 crore households. In August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that rural households would be assured of piped, potable water by 2024 — before his government’s tenure ended. When he made that commitment, only about 3.2 crore, or about 16% of rural households, were so connected. Today, those figures stand at 64%, a substantial increase but still below the target. In recent years, the Jal Shakti Ministry, which has labelled this plan of providing piped water connections as the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ missions, has consistently underlined the scale of the exercise. Since 2019, about nine crore households have their own exclusive access to piped water. This is apart from connections to village schools, anganwadis and community buildings. Yet, for all this scale, it is unlikely that all of rural India will be connected by April 2023, as per Mr. Modi’s claim. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war reportedly caused the mission to slow down considerably, government officials claim, by impeding access to pipes and civil construction necessary to the enterprise. Realistically, it is unlikely that even 75% of households will be connected by this time. While this too, by no means, is an insignificant achievement, the challenge is the reliability of these numbers.

The figures reported by the Jal Shakti Ministry are solely based on data reported by States. One proxy that presents a discouraging picture is the number of villages that have been certified as ‘Har Ghar Jal’, or having all houses fully connected. Only 1,68,157 villages have been reported by States as ‘Har Ghar Jal’ and only 59,000 or about 35% have been ‘certified’ — meaning their gram panchayats have formally acknowledged compliance. The overwhelming fraction of villages have somewhere between half or three-fourths of their households connected. An independent assessment commissioned by the Jal Shakti Ministry sampled about 300,000 households in 13,300 villages and reported 62% households as connected in October last year. That is good but too small a sample to be representative. It also emerges that the large States with 100% compliance, i.e., Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, already started on a fairly high base in 2019. The Centre must put in place a mechanism that discloses the scheme’s performance on the ground in a transparent way.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.