Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat
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Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

Serving the Nation with Relentless Dedication

The learned and well-read leader, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has been dedicatedly working towards providing safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all households in rural India by 2024, under the Jal Jiwan Mission. Through various schemes and initiatives, he has been efficiently leading the nation towards sustainable development

Q. Hon’ble Minister Sir, we, at AsiaOne, appreciate the initiatives undertaken by your ministry to strengthen the water resources of the country. Be it the ‘Clean Ganga Mission’ or taking water to even the remotest of the areas, your ministry has been a great support to the central government. Please throw some light on the initiatives that you are undertaking to contribute to the sector further.

A. Thanks and I would like to thank AsiaOne Magazine for its continuous support. The topic of water has become extremely important for mankind and the whole world. And it’s more important for all of us in the context of India as out of the total potable water available in the world, only 4% of it comes in our share. India has 18% of the world population and almost the same percentage of cattle population. So the percentage proportion of water as compared to the proportion of the population is less. And along with it, due to the clear and present dangers of increasing climate change, our challenges have grown even more.

Q. Sir, what are your thoughts on the “vocal for local” initiative of the Modigovernment? How is your ministry planning to contribute to that?

A. The world is going through a period of pandemic and all the big and small economies of the whole world are shaken by this Coronavirus. All the big economies of the world are trying to get back after the initial bolt from this pandemic. But we are all fortunate as the way India managed and handled the natural calamity, under the leadership of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji, and have helped other countries of the world, our country’s image has enhanced and we have emerged as a global champion.

Whether it is related to managing the impact of this pandemic to prevent its spreading to reducing the death rate to increasing the recovery rate to strengthening the infrastructure to increasing the testing facilities to ensuring the supply of gears needed such as PPE kits or masks to ensure the supply of oxygen and along with manufacturing of medicines and vaccines, no one could imagine that a developing country which is facing such a big disaster with an even bigger challenge of one of the largest population at the time when all those countries that were boasting upon the strength of their infrastructure started stumbling, that country can handle this situation and become the first to make the most affordable and effective vaccine and also efficiently drive vaccination campaign and the world will be looking towards it to fulfil their needs for the vaccine. This is definitely a big step towards making India self-reliant.

As far as the economy is concerned, the impact of the economic package that Hon’ble Prime Minister gave for selfreliant India, the package of 27 lakh crores of rupees, which is 20% of the GDP, is now available. All the parameters for measuring the economy or improving the health of the economy such as PMI index, tax collection, growth of exports, toll and freight collection, consumables like power or electricity or consumption of hydrocarbon fuels, indicates that on every scale from every point of view, India’s economy has recovered the fastest in the world. Considering this disaster as an opportunity with the Prime Minister’s vision to work based on vocal for local in global markets, we have started working on this ideology.

As far as the Ministry is concerned, the exercise of providing drinking water to every house, first for the rural area and then for the urban area after this budget, an investment of about Rs. 700000 crores is going to be done in this direction in the next 4 years. When such a program of drinking water operates at such a wide scale, many activities happen at the same time.

Pipe manufacturing, cement required for making water reservoirs, steel, plastic or HDPE material for making pipes, digging of pipelines, construction works, creating of reservoirs, strengthening and augmentation of resources, manufacturing of motors, commissioning of pump sets, manufacturing of taps, operation of ancillary industries for tap manufacturing, and thereby leading to the creation of market buzz and due to the work done at the base level, employment is created.

Therefore, employment generation and manufacturing of the country is going to get a huge boost through it. When the Prime Minister, on August 15, 2019, announced Jal Jeevan Mission in the series of action plans to bring about a change in the lives of common people in his speech at the ramparts of the Red Fort, he quoted that the work done by the previous governments of the country for the last 70 years, whether regional or local governments, only 16% of the rural housing has the facility of potable drinking water. For the rest 84%, women have to go out of the house to fetch drinking water. If we talk about figures, out of 19 Crores rural families, drinking water had reached only 3 crore 23 lakh families across the country. We all know water is a matter of state and being a matter of state, the responsibilities in the form of design to DPR preparation to implementation to augmentation to operation and maintenance lies with the state government.

We realised the challenges in India, being a country of different geographical conditions, divided into various states, and the different circumstances in different states. Thus, we issued guidelines, after discussions and extensive consultations for 3 months with states, on 25th Dec 2019 on the eve of Good Governance Day, under the exemplary leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister.

So we started working from December 25, 2019 and exactly 3 months later, on March 25, the lockdown was imposed. All of a sudden everything came to a halt. We also thought that maybe our work will be interrupted. We used the time of lockdown to complete all the work that could be done over the table. We discussed issues with states, repeatedly connected through video conferencing, discussed at the level of engineers, secretaries, ministerial level, and with Chief Ministers and it resulted in our preparation at the ground level. The moment the process of unlocking started, we started working at a fast pace.

Today, I can say with great pride that, under the leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, in this 15-month period, from December 25, 2019 to February 26, 2021, we have been able to give 3 Crore 70 lakh new connections as compared to the total connections of 23 million households or 16% of the population in the last 70 years.

I am proud to say that more than 2 lakh connections are being given every day, the coverage which was 16% has increased to 35%, and two states, Goa and Telangana, have a hundred percent saturation rate. I am proud to say that out of 700 districts of the country, there are 52 districts that have become 100 percent saturated and in more than 75000 villages, not a single mother or sister has to go out of her house to get water. We are working with the goal of 2024 but many states have set for themselves the goals of 2021, 2022, and 2023. Under the leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the path we are moving forward, we are sure to succeed.

Q. Hon’ble Minister Sir, India’s rich water resources can be tapped efficiently for a lot of industrial uses and have a lot of scope for entrepreneurial opportunities around it. What is your message to the entrepreneurs who are either working or are aspiring to work in the sector?

A. As I said in response that about Rs.7 lakh crores investment is to be done by the central and state governments in the coming 4 years and when the work starts in the water infrastructure sector, then the multiple industries get benefitted like the core industries including cement, steel, but also plastic, and pipe manufacturing, tap manufacturing, motors manufacturing, and motors ancillary manufacturing.

If we roughly calculate the capital cost is viz-a-viz labor cost, both of them have more than 60-40 ratio. So, if the investment is of Rs. 7 lakh crores, then surely an industrial opportunity to the tune of Rs. 4 lakh crores is going to be created. A golden age has come for people who are working in this field, and the people who are interested in work in this field.

Q. Sir, would you like to give any message to AsiaOne Magazine?

A. I am thankful to AsiaOne Magazine for the efforts, for giving recognition to the people who have brought the change in the lives of the people of Asia and I suggest that there is only one name which can be considered for that, that is our beloved Prime Minister Modi ji. He has brought a change in the behavior of 60 Crore people through sanitation mission and has enlightened more than 4 Crore households by providing electricity, and has reinforced the dignity of the women (almost 30 Crores) by giving them toilets in their homes and is working to bring life to almost 16 Crore households or I may say 64 Crore people of the country by giving them tap water and indirectly ensuring a better life for all of them.