How can we save rural India from COVID-19

Since most rural homes don’t have functional tap connections, they have to be built on a war footing

By Sushmita Sengupta
Published: Wednesday 20 May 2020

Is rural India ready to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19)? The simplest way we know today to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19 is to wash our hands with water.

But how many households in rural India have functional household tap connection (FHTC)? As of today, out of the 178,671,105 households, 77 per cent are waiting to get a household connection. This is certainly not enough.

The pandemic has affected the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh the most, all of which have rural districts. Delhi is the fourth highest in India currently as far as the number of COVID-19 cases are concerned. But it does not have rural districts.

The least villagers can do to protect themselves from the SARS-CoV-2 virus is by washing their hands. The household tap water connection is below 50 per cent in the above-mentioned states except Gujarat.

The western state has more than 80 per cent household tap connections according to data recorded on May 20, 2020 from the website of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.

Household tap connections May 2020

Source: MIS, DDWS (as viewed on May 20, 2020)

In neighbouring Maharashtra (most affected by the pandemic), the districts of Pune and Thane, among the top three districts with maximum COVID-19 cases, do not have even 50 per cent household tap connections in rural areas. Pune and Thane have 49.57 and 46.25 per cent household tap connections respectively.

On an average, the states worst-affected by COVID-19 have improved 1.5 per cent per month on the status of household tap connections. The exception is Tamil Nadu, that has shown no improvement in the last one month.

When will the worst-affected states have fully functional household taps?

States Households yet to get tap connections (per cent) as on May 2020 Improvement in household tap connections (per cent) in one month (April to May 2020) Time required to provide household connection (months)
Maharashtra 58.22 3.34 17
Tamil Nadu 70.26 0 Not determined
Gujarat 19.96 1.58 13
Rajasthan 87.3 0.32 273
Madhya Pradesh 85.63 2.19 39

Source: MIS, DDWS (as viewed on May 20, 2020)

Civil engineers may debate that the rate of construction may not remain the same. It accelerates with the progress of construction and we will achieve the target soon. Then, this is good news.

The maximum number of the sources that supply water to the household, depend on groundwater. Hence, source sustainability is equally important.

According to the Department of Drinking and Sanitation, the recently launched Jal Jeevan Mission is a flagship scheme of the Union government that seeks not only to provide functional household tap connections for all, but also seeks to promote the holistic management of local water resources.

Reuse measures have been made mandatory to the scheme designs.

Hence, to save rural India from the pandemic, the construction of household tap connections as well as ensuring the sustainability of water sources has to be taken up on a war footing through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

In fact, a few blocks in Pune district have already implemented rainwater recharge structures under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) on individual lands.

JSA work done under MGNREGS

SNo. Block Name Panchayat Name Work Start Fin Year Work Status Work Type Agency Name Sanction Amount in(lakh.)
1 Purandhar Guroli 2020-2021 Ongoing Construction of soak pit for individual Gram Panchayat 0.0257
2 Purandhar Udachiwadi 2020-2021 Ongoing Construction of soak pit for individual Gram Panchayat 0.0257
3 Purandhar Vanpuri 2020-2021 Ongoing Construction of soak pit for individual Gram Panchayat 0.0257
4 Purandhar Waghapur 2020-2021 Ongoing Construction of soak pit for individual Gram Panchayat 0.0257


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