- Visakhapatnam to impose fines on those who defecate openly
- The city was declared open defecation free in October 2016
- The civic body made it mandatory for construction sites to have toilets
New Delhi: Eradication of open defecation is often termed by sanitation experts as one of the first steps towards ensuring safe and hygienic sanitation practices in a city. While attaining open defecation free (ODF) status is challenging for any city or village, but sustenance that is to ensure that the area is and remains, completely ODF is a bigger challenge. Among India’s 1,337 ODF cities, Visakhapatnam became ODF in October 2016. Sustenance of the status however, has been difficult for the city’s municipal corporation as instances of open defecation, though less in numbers, are reported every now and then.
To ensure that there is absolutely no instance of open defecation in the city, the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) has levied a series of fines on those who defecate in the open. The move was announced by Municipal Commissioner M. Hari Narayanan, after reports of continuing practice of open defecation were brought forward by local councilors and newspapers.
Violators will be fined an amount of Rs 100 if caught for the first time, Rs 200 in case of repeat violation and Rs 300 if caught for the third time. GVMC has said that it will levy fine on the spot, meaning that violators will have to pay the fine the moment they are caught defecating in the open. Visakhapatnam will not be the first Indian city to opt for such a move. In January this year, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation announced a fine of Rs 500 for anyone caught defecating in the open. The National Green Tribunal in July announced a fine of Rs 5,000 for anyone found openly defecating near the banks of Yamuna in Delhi.
We declared the city ODF as per the Swachh Bharat guidelines. Though it has been more than a year since the ODF declaration, we have received reports of open defecation from a few spots. We have levied the fines to ensure that people do not defecate in the open as we have built enough toilets in the past three years throughout the city for them to use, said M. Hari Narayanan, Municipal Commissioner, Visakhapatman.
Visakhapatnam has succeeded in building around 12,000 individual household toilets, the highest among urban municipal bodies in India. In addition, the civic body has also constructed 276 public toilets, 66 community toilets and seven toilets under public-private partnership. In the past three years, the civic body has also formed ODF committees, each for three-four of its 81 wards. The committees kept the municipality updated about the sanitation situation in the wards. The municipality maintains that along with building toilets, it has focused on bringing in behavioural change among the citizens.
Those who have spent years defecating in the open will find it initially inconvenient to shed that habit but that is the change we have been trying to bring. In some of the slum areas and areas where the population lacks basic sanitation facilities, we have focused on constructing more public toilets and requested the residents to use them. The fine has been levied to ensure that more people use the public toilets, said Mr Narayanan.
Apart from levying a fine on open defecation, the civic body also asked contractors in the construction business to make sure that toilet facilities were available on-site of a new construction for labourers to avail. Failing to make proper arrangements for temporary toilets at construction sites will result in GVMC halting the ongoing construction till toilet facilities were constructed. The GVMC also announced in its gazette that residential apartments with more than 100 flats must hand out dry and wet garbage separately to waste collectors, with immediate effect.
Not everyone is happy with the GVMC’s decision to levy fines. Social Awareness Newer Alternatives (SANA) an NGO which works in the urban sanitation sector in Vizag feels that fines are never the proper method and people cannot forced to use toilets.
The GVMC must investigate why open defecation is continuing in places despite a year after the city going ODF. If the issue is indeed people haven’t yet become habituated to using toilets, the GVMC should spend more on spreading awareness on the ills of open defecation, rather than imposing fines, said a SANA member.
The GVMC’s imposition of fines is a firm step taken to hold on to its rank of India’s third cleanest city, as per Swachh Survekshan 2017. The results of fine imposition will be known with time, but earlier examples in Rajasthan have shown that coercion and policing do not work well when it comes to sanitation. Since the GVMC has already succeeded in doing much of the ground work to improve the city’s sanitation condition, bringing about behavioural change is a bigger challenge.