India’s new rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has also taken charge of the newly-created Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Will the former environmental crusader transform into a sanitation crusader? The first signals are encouraging.
In a cabinet reshuffle the new ministry position was first assigned to Gurudas Kamat who refused to take up the post for “personal reasons” though many commentators believe he was unhappy at being offered such a low-profile portfolio. The new water and sanitation ministry was formerly a department of the Ministry of Rural Development. It provides financial assistance to states and monitors progress but does not have the mandate for actual implementation on the ground.
In his first days in office, Ramesh has made clear he wants to give sanitation the same high profile he achieved for the environment during his two-year stint as minister when he habitually hogged the headlines.
“Sanitation is a single most important need in India today. If you look at the filth, if you look at the hygiene in our country, sanitation programme is the most important programme. It is severely under-funded,” Ramesh told PTI.