New Delhi: “It is pertinent that we ensure Puducherry is clean. Our aim is to make the union territory open defecation free (ODF) by October 2, 2017″, the Chief Minister of Puducherry V. Narayanasamy said back in October 2016. Even in June this year, Puducherry’s Public Works Department Minister A Namassivayam reiterated that entire Union Territory would be declared ODF on October 2, 2017 as the government has intensified work to ensure all households are equipped with toilets. However, the claims laid by the territorial government did not match with the reality on ground, that is, only Mahe, one of the four districts of Puducherry has been declared ODF so far. As per the data available on the government site, Puducherry’s sanitation coverage in rural areas stands at 49.2 percent, which is fourth lowest among all states and union territories. Notably, the percentage increase in the households with toilets since the inception of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in October 2014 has been very marginal – just 3.62 percent. The situation across the urban regions in Puducherry is also not very promising. Only 989 individual household toilets got constructed as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan against 9,187 applications. Recognising this slow pace of toilet construction in Puducherry, the government has now extended the deadline to October 2018.
In a recent statement, Puducherry’s Agriculture and Education Minister R Kamalakannan said that the government has identified about 45,403 households without toilets in the whole Union Territory, and all such households would have the facility by October next year.
He further announced that Rs. 20,000 would be provided as subsidy to construct the toilets. Under the scheme, eligible households (beneficiaries) could approach the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), which facilitate the construction of the toilets in the union territory, for a grant of Rs. 20,000. Notably, this subsidy amount is among the highest a state or union territory government is providing in the country as a whole to ensure construction of toilets.
Under the previous deadline of Puducherry to go ODF, which was October 2017, several initiatives were undertaken by the territorial government and authorities. Right from organising cycle rallies to spread awareness on ill effects of open defecation and keeping the surroundings clean to holding cleanliness shramdaan and other sanitation awareness activities were conducted to ensure Puducherry goes ODF as per the deadline. Even Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, herself along with officials visited various pockets of the union territory over the weekends to ensure the effective implementation of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. But all these efforts turned out to be inadequate to ensure toilets for all households.
The territorial government, all officials and people need to step up their efforts to ensure that Puducherry does not miss the new deadline of October 2018 to go open defecation free.
(With inputs from PTI)