Within a day of taking the oath of office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the creation of a new ministry named Jal Sakti. Living up to his pre-poll promise, the announcement was made during the portfolio allocation today. In line with his promise of ensuring clean and safe drinking water to every household, PM Modi has appointed Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to head the newly-created department.
Shekhawat was elected as Member of Parliament from Jodhpur by defeating current Rajshtan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot by over 2.7 lakh votes. He was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister during the oath-taking ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan yesterday. During the previous Modi government, he served as a minister of state (MoS) for agriculture and farmers’ welfare from September 2017. Rattan Lal Kataria has been named as the Minister of State in the Jal Shakti ministry.
In its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had promised to create a separate ministry of water. The decision to carve an independent department is to unify water management functions, treat the issues of water management holistically and ensure better coordination of efforts.
The Jal Shakti Ministry has been created by reorganizing the existing Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, which was previously headed by Nitin Gadkari. In addition, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has also been added.
Modi government is committed to realizing former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dream. Vajpayee had conceptualized the idea of creating the Jal Shakti Ministry for river interlinking project to solve the issue of drinking water and irrigation. BJP had promised to launch Jal Jivan Mission under a special program ‘Nal se Jal’ which would ensure that piped water reaches every household by the year 2024.
This is an important move by the Modi government especially at a time when nearly 600 million Indians face “high to extreme water stress”, while 75% households do not have drinking water on their premises as per a report by NITI Ayog. The report also suggests that 70% of the water in the country is contaminated and that major cities in the country would run out of groundwater by 2020.
The Jal Shakti Ministry would direct its efforts in ensuring a sustainable supply of water through the conservation of water bodies and groundwater recharge.