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Rs 1,42,084 crore tied grant to rural local bodies (RLBs)/ Panchayats for water and sanitation for the five years 2021–22 to 2025–26, which has been recommended by the 15th Finance Commission, will have a huge impact on ensuring these services in villages and thus on public health and quality of life in rural areas. The government said on Sunday.

The 15th Finance Commission tied grants will ensure more funds to Gram Panchayats to make their water supply and sanitation-related plans implemented and Gram Panchayats can function as local ‘public utilities' with a focus on ‘service delivery. "This is a big step towards strengthening the local self-government in line with the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India," a release from the Ministry of Jal Shakti said.

The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance has issued the Guidelines for release and utilization of grants recommended by the 15th Finance Commission for RLBs / PRIs during the period 2021–22 to 2025–26. The Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti will act as the nodal department for determining the eligibility of the rural local bodies for the ‘15th FC tied grant for water & sanitation' and recommend release of tied grant for water & sanitation, to the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance for all states.

Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation has recommended for release of 1st installment of tied grant to 25 states for water & sanitation activities & onward transfer to RLBs/PRIs. "With Rs 50,000 crore budgetary support by Government of India, Rs 30,000 crore states' share for Jal Jeevan Mission and this year's allocation of Rs 28,000 crore under the 15th tied grant for water and sanitation, more than Rs 1,00,000 crore fund is available for making provision of piped water supply in villages. This will have a huge impact on the rural economy," the release said.

To help and enable RLBs/Panchayats to perform their functions as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission, states' Water & Sanitation/Rural Water Supply/Public Health Engineering Departments will provide technical assistance to these Panchayats/RLBs. To simplify and help RLBs/Panchayats, the Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti has prepared a manual for utilisation of these funds and the same has been made available to all state governments. "They have been requested to get the manual translated into vernacular language and it should be made available to every village Panchayat. A massive drive is to be taken to sensitise, train and empower the Panchayat functionaries to utilise this fund to ensure tap water supply and improved sanitation in villages," the release claimed.

In all, the 15th Finance Commission recommended Rs 2,36,805 crore to RLBs/PRIs for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26. The Commission also identified ‘water supply and sanitation' as national priority areas, which determines the quality of life of people living in rural areas.

It has said that the tied grant be utilised for supply of drinking water, rainwater harvesting and water recycling; and sanitation & maintenance of open-defecation free (ODF) status, the release said.

Since August 2019, the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is under implementation in partnership with states to make provision of tap water supply to every rural home, ensuring ‘no one is left out' with an outlay of Rs 3.60 lakh crore. "The transformational mission will enable every rural household to get drinking water supply on a regular and long-term basis at affordable service delivery charges, thereby improving the quality of life and enhancing the ‘ease of living' of people living in villages," it added.

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