New Delhi: It has been a little over three years since the ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched in 2014 by the centre to provide toilet access to each and every citizen and make India an Open Defecation Free (ODF) country by 2019. Cut to 2018, eight states that have gone ODF, 300 districts and three lakh villages but there are three states that are yet to declare any of their districts free from open defecation, as per the latest report released by the government. Favoured destinations among foreign tourists – Goa, north eastern state – Manipur and the hallmark of Buddhist stupas like Kesaria– Bihar, are the three states which don’t have a single ODF district.
In a recently held review meeting cum press briefing of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), secretary of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Parmeswaran Iyer revealed the sanitation coverage of Goa and said, “Unfortunately not a single district of Goa is ODF. We have to go and find out the difficulties the state is facing (in this regard).”
Ministry officials further noted that along with Goa, Bihar and Manipur does not have s a single district which is free from open defecation. While Goa has only two districts (North Goa and South Goa), Bihar and Manipur have a total of 38 and nine districts respectively.
A new report by the Drinking and Water Sanitation Ministry also puts Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and Puducherry among states with poor toilet coverage. When one talks about the success of ODF process, it is states like Arunachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala and Union territories like Chandigarh and Daman and Diu that top the list of ODF with close to 100 per cent coverage.
- More Than 70% Sanitation Coverage, Yet No District Is ODF In Goa And Manipur, Here’s Why
Touted as the top destination for foreigners and youth of India, Goa is one of the smallest states of India and has a population of about 1.817 million. Official documents regarding Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural) on Goa show that SBM coverage is close to 77.84 per cent in North Goa, where as in South Goa it is 73.81 per cent. Official data shows that overall SBM coverage in the state was 60.59 per cent in 2014, when the mission was launched and the state increased its coverage to 76.22 per cent in 2015-16 fiscal year.
One of the major hindrances prevailing in the state is the tenant-landlord relationship. Almost 1/3rd of Goa’s properties are rented and inorder to build a toilet a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) is required from the landlord. In addition to this, uncontrolled and illegal leasing out of premises without toilet facilities to migrant labourers and families, lack of space in the house, the rocky terrain and low water levels are some of the problems that force the Goans to practice open defecation.
Until July last year, the Public Works Department was in charge for constructing toilets. As per their survey taken in 2012, 70,000 households needed a toilet. However the survey had failed to include houses given on rent, public places like markets, etc. In October 2017, Goa’s rural sanitation department initiated another baseline survey of households without a toilet. The results of which are expected to come in by March this.
We have provided toilet access to most of the 70,000 households and hence our sanitation coverage has shot up above 70%. Once we procure the toilet requirement details from the new survey we will immediately start the construction process. Until then we are placing mobile toilets in open defecation prone areas. These mobile toilets also prove to be a temporary solution to the landlord-tenancy problem, Sandhya Kamat, Director, SBM- Gramin tells NDTV.
Despite these challenges, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar recently assured the Centre that Goa will turn ODF by October this year.
“I was told by the Goa CM that the state will be hundred per cent open defecation-free by October 2018. I have no doubt that the state will achieve this goal,” Union Housing and Urban Affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri had told reporters after chairing meetings to review various urban development initiatives in Goa last month.
As for Manipur, though the state has constructed over 1,45,000 toilets and its rural sanitation coverage is 83%, none of its nine districts have attained the ODF tag. Like Goa, difficult terrain is making the entire ODF process slow. It was only in 2015, a year after the cleanliness campaign was launched, that the residents became aware of the toilet subsidy and hence the progress was slow in Manipur compared to its neighbouring states, said an official from state’s sanitation department. As per the original target set, Manipur will need around 50,000 more toilets to go ODF by October 2, 2019.
- Bihar – Worst Performer In India’s Sanitation Progress
When one breaks down the rural toilet coverage in Bihar, majority of the districts fall under the bracket of 30-60% sanitation coverage. When the mission was initiated, only 22.34% of 18 million households in rural areas of Bihar had a toilet and despite such a poor figure, the toilet construction process has been slow and this is reflected in the fact that only 31,11,184 toilets out of the total target of 1.51 crore toilets have been built since 2014 which means the sanitation coverage has increased to a mere 38 per cent in last three years.
Talking to NDTV Balamurugan D, Commissioner Rural Development Department, Bihar says,
We have adopted a different strategy when it comes to toilet construction. Instead of promoting toilet subsidy model, we are encouraging the beneficiaries to build toilets with their own money. This will give a sense of ownership to them and will motivate them to use the toilet. This is long tedious process as people are hesitant to invest such a huge amount for toilets.
When asked why the rural leg of the state is lagging behind Mr Balamurugan adds, “Our immediate focus isn’t toilet construction target, it is mass behavourial change. There is no point in building toilets if people are still choosing to defecate in open. And the required mindset change can slowly be seen among the people of Bihar. Compared to 2016, we managed to construct double the number of toilets in 2017.”
Besides, the awareness challenge, temporary issues like land availability, floods in certain districts are also affecting the toilet construction process. However in last one year, the several districts have come out with innovative and unique initiatives to end open defecation. For instance, the gram panchayat officials are now focussing more on building community or public toilets where individual household toilet seem a challenge. Nearly 25,000 locals have been roped in to spread awareness and make the cleanliness campaign more localised.
Rural Bihar is confident of making its ODF debut before March this year by declaring its first district – Rohtas free from open defecation, confirmed Mr Balamurugan.
With inputs from PTI