India has been making policies relating to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector since independence. The 2010 policy guidelines for the water and sanitation sectors have embarked on a new path of water security by identifying and emphasizing the importance of hitherto nagging bottlenecks in sustainable service delivery. This paper attempts to assess these policy guidelines critically and suggest ways to make them effective from the point of view of putting them into operation. This paper argues the following. (i) WASH sector financing needs to be addressed directly with realistic assessment of unit costs and their composition. (ii) Within the WASH sector sanitation needs special focus in terms of planning and allocations. Treating sanitation as an add-on to water would not be enough to improve the sanitation and hygiene conditions. The approach to sanitation needs to be focused on creating demand at the household level, segregating private and public responsibilities in this regard. (iii) Although the new guidelines try to bring a much needed balance between the cost components of new capital investment, they are not clear about post-construction support, especially capital maintenance and ring fencing the allocations towards O&M (operations and maintenance), as well as emphasizing that capital maintenance is critical for sustainable service delivery.

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