The central government is spending around Rs 2,500 crore on various drinking water supply schemes in the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and North Dinajpur and plans to provide water connections to around 8.72 lakh households.
Darjeeling MP Raju Bista said the Union jal shakti ministry had informed him about the allocation of the funds and the work on the projects had already started.
According to the information provided to him, 714 drinking water schemes have been approved by the state-level scheme sanction committee (SLSSC). These include 284 projects each for Darjeeling and North Dinajpur districts and 146 for Kalimpong district.
“Altogether, a sum of Rs 2,450.34 crore would be spent on these schemes, which is in addition to the allocations made for water supply in urban areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts,” said the MP.
According to the data, around 8.72 lakh households will be provided with FHTC (functional household tap connection).
Bista added: “Out of these, 1.98 households had received the connections till September 1. The goal is to finish the projects by 2024.”
In the hilly regions of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, the drinking water supply has always been a major issue in the elections.
Thousands of urban and rural residents often face an acute water crisis and the demand for taking up comprehensive drinking water supply schemes was time and again flagged by various political parties.
Political observers have pointed out that as panchayat elections are likely to be held next year in the hills after a gap of over 20 years, the BJP has planned to consolidate its support base by trying to address one of the longstanding demands of the hills.
They mentioned that the Centre had recently announced the allocation of funds for drinking water supply schemes in Kalimpong and Mirik towns.
“Now, there is yet another announcement where it has been mentioned that around Rs 1,600 crore would be spent in the two hill districts. If these projects are implemented, it would give the saffron camp a boost ahead of the rural polls,” said an observer.