Centre wants village committees to collect water service charges

It would encourage people to use the resource responsibly, say Jal Jeevan Mission officials

The Jal Jeevan Mission is pushing for villagers getting piped water connections under the scheme to pay service charges covering at least half of the recurring costs. However, each panchayat or village-level water and sanitation committee will take a decision on this for itself, officials said on Monday.

“The policy enables and encourages levying of service charges at the local level,” said Jal Shakti Secretary Pankaj Kumar, noting that this would encourage “people to use this water responsibly”.

“The idea is that under the Mission, we are pushing that minimum 50% recurring expenditure should be collected from end users. In many places, it is already 100%. In other areas, nothing is being contributed yet,” said Additional Secretary Bharat Lal. About 76% of end users in Gujarat villages pay service charges ranging from ₹40 to ₹100 per family per month, while many Bihar wards collect ₹30, he said. Telangana is already implementing the policy.

“As on date, it’s not like a law. At the end of the day, it’s the pani samiti or the village panchayat itself that is performing the role of a public utility so they are deciding what kind of service charge they should collect from each family,” said Mr. Lal. Provisions were made at the local level to exempt the destitute and the poor families from payment.

Funding available

He emphasised that the operation of the scheme is not dependent on the service charges. The Fifteenth Finance Commission funding is available to cover any shortfall. “The idea is to develop responsible and responsive leadership at the village level.”

In its report submitted last week, the Finance Commission said it was “imperative to fix an appropriate price for water on a graded basis, wherein higher consumption entails higher charges,” adding that inappropriate pricing is a major cause of the over-exploitation of the resources.

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