Union Budget 2021-2022: Water and Money aren’t ‘hand in hand’

Union Budget 2021-2022: The Paradox of Promises, Priorities and Provisions for Water

The Covid19 pandemic had brought the sanitation and hygiene to the centre stage. The importance of clean water, basic hygiene practices and sanitation had become the basic necessity to deal with the health crisis. The same seems to be imparted by the government of India while making its union budget for 2021-2022.


Having its domain lies in agriculture and allied activities, rural development, drinking water and sanitation, energy and transportation sector; Water resources are quite crucial for an economy of a state. A union budget other than making financial provisions, also tells us about the vision of a government.

Union Finance minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman had presented the union budget for 2021-2022 in the parliament on 01st February 2021. This budget was quite distinct to its predecessors, as it was carrying the burden to mitigate the ongoing fiscal crisis in the country as well as provide the panacea to the state economy. Ms Sitharaman had emphasised the universal coverage of water supply as a prerequisite to achieving universal health. In her budget speech, she had made some announcement in accordance with the same but not all fairly reflected on the budget estimate sheets.

The Financial Provisions1

In the union budget of 2021-2022, approximately 77,352 crore INR are proposed to the water domain that spread across the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Agriculture and farmers’ welfare, ministry of rural development, ministry of housing and urban affairs2. This allocation is almost double than the last financial year’s proposed budget. Most of its credit goes to almost 50,000 crore allocation to Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) for providing functional household tap connection (FHTC) in rural India. The target for the financial year 2021-22 is to achieve an additional 3 crore FHTCs.


Interesting to note, during the 2020-2021 financial year against the proposed 38,778 crore INR, the revised budget allocation had decreased to 28,848 crore INR, which is almost 25% decrease in the allocation. Budget provision to Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY), the flagship scheme under the consecutive NDA regime had been 11,588 crore INR, which is almost equal to the last year’s allocations.

MINISTRY OF JAL SHAKTI

Combined of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation and the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti had been allotted a proposed budget of 69,052 crore INR, which is 130% more than the last financial year’s budget. Almost all of the increased budget is given to JJM rural segment.


In the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, as a usual trend, a key share is given to the major and medium irrigation projects. Out of the total allocated 9,022 crore INR, 5,588 crore INR is given to the PMKSY components, in this case, that includes the Har Khet Ko Pani, HKKP (900 crores), Flood management and border areas programme, FMBAP (636 crores), Atal Bhujal Yojana (300 crores), Servicing of loans from NABARD under PMKSY (3600 crores) and special package for Vidarbha and Marathawada (400 crores). Like earlier years trend, this year also out of this year’s total budget estimate of the department, approximately 40% of the amount is going for servicing of loans from NABARD under PMKSY that includes Payment of interest for NABARD. Further, the National River Conservation Plan had been allocated 850 crore INR and that is almost equal to the last year’s allocation. Amount allocation for Namami Gange programme had seen a sharp decrease of 25% as compared to last year’s 800 crores. Almost all components under the financial head of Water Resources Management remain roughly the same as the last year’s allocation.


For the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, there is a considerable change in the total allocation as 60,030 crore INR as compared to last year’s 21,518 crore INR. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) / National Rural Drinking Water Mission is allocated a sum of 50,011 crore INR. Which clearly states the priority of the state to ensure the clean and accessible water to all in the country. In the financial year 2020-21, a total of 2.14 crore additional FHTC was provided and 26 districts of the country had achieved a 100% FHTC. It is expected with the relatively higher allocation to the JJM, the focus of the program will move towards the behavioural, institutional and water resources sustainability aspects, instead of only achieving the physical target of tap connections.


The Swachh Bharat Mission rural had been allocated a sum of 9,994 crore INR to ensure the sustainability of ODF status in all the rural areas and to cover all the villages of the country with Solid and Liquid Waste Management arrangements.

MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS’ WELFARE

Under the banner of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) – Per Drop More Crop a total allocation of 4,000 crores had been made, which is equal to the last year’s budget estimate. The Micro Irrigation Fund, with a corpus of 5,000 crores has been created under NABARD. The same is doubled this year by augmenting another 5,000 crores.

MINISTRY OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT

In the Department of Land Resources for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY) – Integrated Watershed Development Program a total allocation of 2,000 crores INR had been made, which is equal to last year’s allocation. A lot of watershed and water conservation work performed under the MGNREGA funds. During the lockdown period of Covid19, most of the water conservation activities for employment generation were performed. In the department of Rural Development, this year MGNREGA fund is increased by 20% as compared to last years 61,500 crores.

MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND URBAN AFFAIRS

In connection with the urban water and sanitation aspects, two major development took place in this year’s budget speech. First, Jal Jeevan mission (Urban) will be launched with an aim to attain the universal water supply in all 4,378 Urban Local Bodies with 2.86 crores household tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities. It will be implemented over 5 years, with an outlay of 2,87,000 crores. Important to note, no exclusive financial provision is made under this for the current financial year. All the activities will be carried out under the AMRUT scheme. Second, Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be implemented with a total financial allocation of 1,41,678 crores over a period of 5 years from 2021-2026. The focus will be on complete faecal sludge management, wastewater treatment and source segregation of garbage. Under the scheme of Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban an allocation of 2,300 crore INR is made, which is equal to last year’s allocation.

Other Allocations

Under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), financial provision is made in the head of National Coastal Management Programme (200 cores), Environment Protection, Management and Sustainable Development (136 crores), Control of Pollution (470 crores), National Mission for a Green India 9290 crores) and Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems (62 crores). The total outlay of MoEFCC had been reduced by almost 200 crores as compared to last years budget allocation of 3,100 crores.

For the Inland Water Transport, under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways a total outlay of 624 crores is made.

The Paradox

The progress and success of a program or scheme aren’t alone depending on the financial provision but also related to the planning of expenditure, stage of expenditure and approach of expenditure. This year’s union budget sheets prominently reflect three things. One, there is a significant gap between the estimated budget allocation and actual expenditure. Second, though the govt had kept the drinking water and sanitation at priority but other all livelihood, economic and ecological aspects of it are substantially under-allocated. And third and most important, the approach is largely mandated towards the engineering approach rather an interdisciplinary and inclusive paradigm.

For the consecutively past three financial years (2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21), the actual/revised budget to water sector is almost 25% lesser the initially estimated budget allocation3. The same trend is followed by a various financial head under different ministries.

The repetitive gap between the estimated budget and actual/revised budget.
The status of Department of Water Resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation in term of the estimated budget and actual/revised budget
For all stated years, the actual/revised budget is at least 10% lesser than the estimated budget for Dept. of Drinking water and Sanitation.
In terms of gap between estimated and actual/revised budget, the SBM (Urban) is worst performer.
Over the years, actual/revised budget for watershed programs seen a sharp decrease.
The govt. is targeting to cover more and more area under micro irrigation but the actual/revised budget is narrating a different story.

Over the years, the need of water for agriculture is repetitively failing to emerge in the union budget. The NDA govt came to power in 2014 and initiated the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) by integrating all water resources development and irrigation programs. For the initial few years, a good amount of money was pumped in creating as well as enhancing irrigation potential in the country. Alongside that, financial provisions were also made for micro-irrigation and watershed development. Though in this arrangement, the watershed domain was losing substantially, but in the second term of NDA, all aspects of irrigation are in the no-gain situation. One, almost 1/4th of the allocation to PMKSY is going in repaying the loans. Second, the important aspects like micro-irrigation and watershed aren’t getting financial allocations. Needless to mention, agriculture shouldered the economy of India during the pandemic, when every other sector was rushing to security package for existence. The same agriculture sector is in need of water and water need financial resources to plan and manage but this doesn’t seem a sound argument to provision makers. As a matter of fact, irrigation is a state subject and considerable allocation comes from the state budget but still the union budget the set the path and approach for work.


Also, more than 50% of India’s net sown area is rainfed. The rainfed agriculture is demanding the protective irrigation for survival and needs an exclusive previsioning for the same but year after year the same is simply neglected. The financial allocation states, more than half of cultivated land and equally farmers are not even considered in the union budget by making no or inappropriate allocation for irrigation in the rainfed region.

The prime minister of the country Mr Modi had repetitively through the radio talk show “Mann ki Baat” and/or through the public addresses had urged the community to participate in water conservation but the budget allocation is most to all the centralised or top-down implementation approach schemes or programs.

The budget allocation suggests that the prior and predominant focus of the Ministry of Jal Shakti is still on the water resources development rather than the water resources governance or management for that matter.

The country is going through the severe water crisis, whether that is a drought or acute shortage of drinking water, midst of this PM had urged the country for the water conservation and rainwater harvesting but the paradox is, still the preference of policymakers lies in the large water infrastructure and ignorance to the small and decentralised modes, this year’s budget is an evidence of the same.

Countries Water resources are degrading day by day, whether that is rivers, streams, lacks, ponds, springs or aquifers but this budget had made no significant intention to enhance the same. All focus remained on source management while neglecting the resources.

This year’s budget isn’t much different from its predecessors with few exceptions, whether that is provisions or the priority. No wonder if after spending almost 80,000 crore INR in the water domain in the months to come, the country would be still shivering through the drudgery of an acute water crisis.


Endnotes:

  1. All the mentioned allocations are as per the Union Budget 2021-22.
  2. The stated total is the sum of all allocation of Ministry of Jal Shakti; Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY)- Per Drop More Crop component of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare; Integrated Watershed Development Program component of Department of Land Resources; Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) – Urban component of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  3. For the financial year of 2018-19 and 2019-20, the figures are of actual budget and for 2020-21, the figures are of the revised budget.

Comments, Critiques and Suggestions of readers are always welcomed.

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