Awards not grounded on facts

Should the people of Meghalaya rejoice over the fact that the State has won the second prize under the functionality assessment of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)? The award was given for 60% coverage category among states for which Tamil Nadu was adjudged the best performing state. When such projects are assessed the question is to ask who the assessing authority is and how credible the whole process is. Also it is important to ask if the people who are the main stakeholders in the project for whom piped water is to arrive at their doorstep have indeed benefitted from the Scheme. Large sections of citizens in the Shillong city itself have been voicing their concerns over the water supplied by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) which is murky and perhaps not potable. That aside, residents in large parts of the state, particularly in the rural areas, do not yet have piped water in their homes. The unfortunate part is that there is no agency in Meghalaya other than an educational institution which has the wherewithal to do a counter-study to reveal the ground realities and expose the tall claims of the State Government that piped water has been supplied to 60% of the population of Meghalaya. One visit to the distant villages of Garo Hills beyond the district headquarters will reveal the lacunae in the JJM mission. These have been brought out by the media time and again after talking to citizens but all these have been ignored.
The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti organized the event, commemorating the Swachh Bharat Diwas. The other question that needs an immediate answer is whether a physical verification of the JJM was made and by whom? Normally Government of India officials come and visit Shillong, meet their civil servant colleagues here and give their certification accordingly. Such assessments should be made only after talking to Water & Sanitation Committees in the villages or the Dorbar Shnong to get a grip on what’s the actual situation so that the real picture emerges and the Union Ministry is kept abreast of things. The eagerness with which the MDA Government is looking for opportunities for awards is linked to the 2023 elections and this is a dangerous trend because it’s like living in a fool’s paradise.
In other states with a more active civil society such tall claims by the State Government on a matter that even a village close to Shillong like Mawpat is yet to experience would have been called out but Meghalaya lacks dedicated activists. Some are selective in the issues they pick up. This gives a leverage to governments and politicians to get away with delivery failure.

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