From the ramparts of the Red Fort on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that his government, working together with the States, would find a solution to the drinking water problem in the country. The Jal Jeevan Mission, which was first announced in this year’s Union Budget, Modi said, is being rolled out at a cost of ₹3.5-lakh crore to ensure than tap water reaches all Indian households by 2024.
Water was indeed projected as a focus area by the re-elected Modi government. In May, it merged different departments in seperate Ministries dealing with water to form the Ministry of Jal Shakti. The idea, it was said, is to integrate demand and supply sides so that issues related to water are dealt with holistically. Besides this, MPs belonging to the BJP were time and again told to spread the message of conservation and take up the task of creating or reviving water harvesting structures.
A commendable initiative, indeed. But it is rather strange that the government is so indifferent to the demands of those small industrial units which make non-electric, gravity-based water purifiers. Since the GST rollout, these firms have been writing to the authorities requesting them to reduce the 18 per cent GST on water purifiers, but to no avail. Currently, water filters do not have a separate HSN code, and are clubbed with gas and liquid purifier systems for industrial applications. Such water filters, not needing electricity, can be of great help for those living in rural areas, where power is either not available or is erratic. During natural disasters like floods, which are currently ravaging a large part of the country, such gravity-based filters can do away with the dispatching of bottled water.
Significantly, many Indian scientific labs have designed superior-quality water filters, which use candles made of ceramic nano-materials to trap not just particles present in muddy water, but also microscopic germs. Reducing the GST on these filters, or removing it completely, can go a long way in making people in rural India get safe drinking water.
The author is a Senior Deputy Editor at The Hindu BusinessLine