Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reportedly claimed on June 14, 2021 that more than 95% people in the state now get safe tap drinking water owing to the state government's 'Har Gal Nal Ka Jal' scheme, according to a Times of India report.
"CM Nitish Kumar on Monday said more than 95% people in the state are now getting safe tap drinking water after the implementation of his government's ambitious 'Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal Yojana' (tap water to every household). Earlier the supply of tap water was limited to the houses of only 2% people across the state, he said," read the TOI report.
If the news report is to be believed, the statement is not supported by any official document, be it the state's or the Centre's. But before we delve into that, let's understand what this resolution is.
What is 'Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal'?
Launched in September 2016, 'Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal' is one of the seven "nishchays" or welfare projects implemented under the Bihar Vikas Mission by the state government. It aims to provide piped water "to all the houses located in rural and urban areas of the state". There are four schemes under Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal, implemented by different departments of the state:
Mukhyamantri Gramin Peyjal Nishchay Yojana is handled by Panchayati Raj Department
Mukhyamantri Gramin Peyjal (Quality Affected Areas) Nishchay Yojana and Mukhyamantri Gramin Peyjal (Non-quality Affected Areas) Nishchay Yojana comes under the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED)
Mukhyamantri Shahri Peyjal Nishchay Yojana is the responsibility of the Urban Development & Housing Department (UDHD)
The first three schemes focus on rural areas and the departments handling them were tasked to "provide tap water through pipes to every household by year 2019-20".
FactChecker verified the Cm's claim against data maintained and released by the Centre and the state government. Let's first look at two sets of data released by the Centre — one dating back to 2018, two years after 'Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal' was launched, and another released in July 2021, a month after Kumar made the claim.
According to a survey conducted by the Union Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI) on Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition In India during July-December 2018, a total of 3.7% of the households in Bihar, rural and urban, received their principal source of drinking water through a piped connection. The report highlighted that 2.9% got piped water into their dwelling, 0.5% got piped water into their yard or plot, 0.1% got piped water from their neighbour, and 0.2% got piped water from a public tap or stand pipe. For 88.1% of the households, the principal source of drinking water was hand pumps, added the report.
Now, for more recent data, FactChecker referred to responses given in the Rajya Sabha by the Minister of State for Jal Shakti Prahlad Singh Patel. In one such response on July 19, 2021, Patel has said, in rural Bihar, 84.66% of 1.72 crore households are provided with tap water supply. This data was given according to Jal Jeevan Mission's (JJM) portal, which now mentions that there are around 1,49,28,090 tap water connections in rural Bihar, as of August 10, 2021. This is around 86.69% of the total rural households and four of the state's 38 districts (Aurangabad, Dharbanga, Araria, and Saharsa) have less than 75% rural households with piped water supply.
The coverage of piped water supply in urban Bihar comes under Mukhyamantri Shahri Peyjal Nishchay Yojana, which is implemented by the Urban Development & Housing department. According to the Bihar Vikas Mission's website, out of total 3,370 wards (15.85 lakh households), work was completed in 2,448 wards or 11.42 lakh households till 2019-20. This means that work was still left to be completed in 922 wards and 72% of the targeted urban households had received piped water supply. Another report released by Bihar Vikas Mission on June 29, 2021, work was still incomplete in 922 wards over a year later and it said 400 (of the 922) wards will be covered in July 2021.
According to Centre and state data, in total 1.6 crore urban and rural households have piped water coverage, which is 85% and not over 95% as claimed by the CM.
FactChecker spoke to officials in the Panchayati Raj Department and the PHED, both of whom blamed the data entry mechanism for the numbers not reflecting in official records.
"The Government of India looks at the data that is provided through the IMIS [web] portal of the Jal Jeevan Mission [website]. But if the data is not entered [into the portal] then there is no way [for the central government] to know the real numbers. If someone's home has received a connection, the data entered has to be linked to the receiver's Aadhar number and other details. Thus, data for many households is not entered and is in process of being entered," said DS Mishra, Engineer-in-Chief Cum Special Secretary at the PHED.
He explained that ward coverage is higher than the percentage of households with piped water supply. "The number of household connections can be lower [than the answer given in the Rajya Sabha]. But with respect to ward coverage, we are at a 97%. For example, in a ward of 100 homes, if 90 receive piped water supply and 10 don't owing to various reasons, that ward is counted as covered," Mishra told FactChecker.
The Panchayati Raj Department also blamed out-of-date records. "The claim made by the CM is correct. Right now, the number of connections is greater than 95%. The Har Ghar Nal ka Jal Yojana started in 2016, much before the Jal Jeevan Mission. Data is being entered [into JJM's IMIS portal] on a continuous basis. Many households where the work has been completed, still remain to be entered into the portal. I'm sure that the numbers are higher than what was stated in the Parliament," said a Panchayati Raj official, who did not wish to be named.
FactChecker tried contacting several UDHD officials, namely Principal Secretary Anand Kishor, Special Secretary Satish Kumar Singh, and Joint Secretary-Cum-Additional Director Arbind Kumar Jha, but did not receive a response. This article will be updated if and when we do receive a response from them.