Highlights of the Union Budget 2016 for Cleanliness, Sanitation and Drinking Water-
- As discussed in an earlier article, excise duty on mineral water is increased from 18% to 21%.
- The government has allocated Rs. 11,300 crores to Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). The govt estimates to receive majority of this amount, Rs. 10,000 crores to be precise, from Swachh Bharat Cess which is charged along with Service tax.
- The govt has raised its target of building toilets, from 90 lakhs to 1.25 crores per year.
- Out of the total allocation to SBM, Rs. 9,000 crores are allocated to Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry (the authority responsible for implementing the programme in rural areas) and Rs. 2,300 crores are allocated to Urban Development Ministry (which is responsible for urban areas).
- Priority allocation from centrally sponsored schemes will be made to reward villages that have become free from open defecation.
- Total allocation to Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (including SBM) is Rs. 14,010 crores. The revised estimate for 2015-16 is Rs. 10,907 crores. So, it is a 28.45% hike for the next year. However, actual expenditure for the year 2014-15 was Rs. 12,091 crores.
- Allocation for National Rural Drinking Water Programme is Rs. 5,000 crores.
- Increasing excise duty on mineral water will affect public health and lead to more health issues.
- Considering that the govt is receiving majority of funds for SBM from Swachh Bharat Cess itself, it should have increased the allocation to SBM by adding more funds from its own resources.
- Last year, the allocation under SBM for rural areas was Rs. 3,600 crores. The govt plans to build 12 crores toilets in rural areas by 2019, out of which 95.23 lakhs are already made. The increase of 150% in allocation shows that the govt is concentrating on rural areas.
- The urban development ministry had demanded Rs. 5,000 crores for SBM, but it is allocated only Rs. 2,300 crores. The govt plans to build 1.04 crores toilets in urban areas by 2019, but only 8.8 lakhs toilets were completed by December 2015. The under-allocation is a bad sign, considering that our towns and cities are really dirty and no concrete step seems to have been taken to address this issue.
- We can see that the completion rate is around 8%, for both urban and rural areas. This is really slow and considering that the govt has only 3 years left, both the ministries must pull up their socks.
- Priority allocation to deserving villages is a good idea to encourage others to improve, but proper supervision and inspection are needed, else this can lead to massive corruption and leakage of funds.
- A good hike in the allocation of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation shows that it enjoys govt support. However, the fact that it spent fewer funds in 2015-16 than in 2014-15 is alarming. At this rate, completion of govt projects and availability of clean drinking water in rural areas seem far-fetched dreams.
- Allocation of Rs. 5,000 crores for drinking water for rural areas, where over 75% of our population lives, is difficult to understand. However, along with the ministry, proper implementation can ensure good results.
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