Patna: Allegations of rampant corruption in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s dream project, ‘Har Ghar Nal Jal’ (Tap Water in Every House) are growing in Bihar. Time and again, the Opposition has raised the issue and some ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have also publicly spoken about it.
The allegations point fingers at some ruling National Democratic Alliance leaders and their ‘pet contractors’ for “minting money” by using substandard material in the construction of water tanks and pipes for water supply across the state.
The latest case of roof collapse of a newly constructed “jal-minar” (water tank) under the Har Ghar Nal Jal scheme at ward no 5 of Kab panchayat under Dulhinbazar block in Patna district gives credence to some of these allegations.
The roof of a water tank collapsed on Wednesday even before it could be inaugurated, leaving villagers disappointed as they had been promised water supply through taps.
As this incident took place in Dulhinbazar locality, near Patna, District Magistrate Chandra Sekhar Singh ordered that an FIR be lodged against those involved in the construction and management committee. Singh also directed reconstruction of the roof within 15 days.
According to villagers, roofs of newly constructed water tanks usually collapse due to poor quality construction materias and irregularities in construction work.
This is not the only case. Similar incidents were reported from a village under Phulwaria block in Gopalganj, Silao block in Nalanda, Gurua block in Gaya and Bahadurpur block in Darbhanga in the past 14 days, when newly constructed water tanks collapsed following after water was filled up.
Several such incidents of alleged irregularities in the schem have come to light but have hardly been reported,
After the Opposition parties’ uproar over “rampant corruption” in the ambitious Nal-Jal scheme and revelation of irregularities in its implementation, the government has been forced to initiate action against mukhiyas (village body heads), contractors, supervisors and panchayat sachiv (panchayat secretary).
Last week Anil Kumar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ally and BJP MLA from Bathnaha Assembly seat, questioned the Har Ghar Nal Jal scheme, saying the quality of water being supplied from taps was such that it was being used to bathe buffaloes as no one uses it for drinking purposes. This statement made in public by a leader of the ruling party was a big embarrassment for the Chief Minister, but his Janata Dal (United) party leaders ignored it.
Till last month, the ruling NDA leaders denied any corruption or irregularities in the tap water project despite the Opposition raising the issue repeatedly. But after official data procured through RTI exposed irregularities, the government had to admit and initiate action.
According to official sources in the chief secretary office here, FIRs have been lodged against 373 mukhiyas on charges of irregularities in the implementation of the scheme. Besides, the officials concerned have been directed to lodge FIRs against 45 contractors,62 supervisors, 32 panchayat sachivs.
The government has also sought explanation from 13 Block Development Officers and 10 Panchayati Raj officers on charges negligence during implementation of the scheme.
Last year, the state government’s own Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED) report exposed loopholes in implementation of the scheme. The report, which was submitted by 28 District Magistrates, found that186 out of the 2,954 projects inspected were incomplete while 279 projects were found to be non-functional. As many as 1,952 projects were running without any complaint, but 562 projects of different scales had minor issues and 189 were suffering from major problems.
Another government report in October 2020 highlighted the progress of the project at “snail’s pace” with least penetration in rural areas.
In October 2020, the Income Tax Department had raided the houses of six contractors and seized Rs 2.28 crore from the houses of two of them connected with the Nal-Jal Yojana.
Also read: Bihar: Nitish Kumar’s ‘Har Ghar Nal Jal’ Scheme Hit by Corruption, Incomplete Work