Those thugs who have looted the PHE department, drawn money against defunct water supply schemes and managed to remain unscathed should not be spread.
“None should be spared. We cannot allow the system to rot the way the previous governments have done. I want these corrupt elements out of the PHE department, the sooner the better.” This was stated by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti while reviewing the functioning of PHE department alongwith Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Sham Choudhary here today.
“Don’t hesitate in taking action even if some officer talks of being my relative or friend,” Mehbooba told the PHE minister. She emphasized upon making sustained efforts to harness state’s abundant water potential and provide safe potable drinking water to every household as well as assured irrigation to the farmer community in the state.
To enforce accountability, she said the performance of the engineers will be linked with the success of schemes they execute. “The officers will be held responsible. We are lagging and need to immediately devise a mechanism to take forward all stranded projects,” she stated. While taking firsthand appraisal of the water supply position, Mehbooba Mufti said there should be a well-thought out process before framing modalities of new schemes, in particular relating to source depletion and long-term viability.
She urged the engineers to pick up the gauntlet and get into the nitty-gritty of the projects, adding the schemes do not fail due to fund constraint but primarily due to ill-conceived plans. “Quick Action Plans and Response Teams have to be drawn up to meet any eventuality on account of water shortage,” she stressed, adding people, especially in rural belts, should not be subjected to any hardships.
Chief Minister was informed that while there are constrains in Kathua and Samba districts in assured water supply, situation in most of the other districts in the region remains satisfactory. Comparatively in Kashmir Valley, the water supply position is adversely affected in Kupwara, Bandipora and Pulwama districts, the Chief Minister was informed. It was given out in the meeting that funding under NRDWP (National Rural Drinking Water Programme) will have to be chased to ensure quality water supply to rural habitations in the state.
Chief Minister also passed directions to accelerate access to quality water supply in all schools and Anganwadi centers in the state. She also indicated at introducing Rainwater harvesting in all schools in the state. PHE minister Sham Choudhary informed the Chief Minister that while 233 schools have been provided assured water supply, another 368 schools, along with Anganwadi Centres, will be taken in the next phase. He also told the meeting that 49 testing labs along with mobile water testing vans under CCDU keep a constant check on the quality of potable water being provided to the people.
Mehbooba noted with concern sluggish fund utilization, partly because of irregular tranches released by the Central government due to non-submission of UCs on time. She said that state has identified potential to irrigate 11 lakh ha, out of which only 4 lakh have been covered far. Chief Minister was also briefed about the newly-launched Pradhan Mantri Sinchai Yojana which will fund the spillover schemes of AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme). The project envisages physical access of water on the cultivable areas through integration of water resource, distribution and efficient use.
During the meeting, the Chief Minister also obtained to-date status of dredging in river Jhelum and strengthening of Tawi embankments. She reiterated her earlier direction to earth-fill Rakh-e-Arth colony being established for Dal dwellers by providing 60,000 truckloads of dredged out material over the next six months.
Following upon her earlier meeting on status of dredging, Mehbooba Mufti once again reiterated upon convergence by linking labour component of MNREGA with dredging of river Jhelum. She said she will ask the Rural Development Department so that better coordination exists between I&FC and RDD in implementation of the Convergence Plan.