Contrary to the Centre’s claims on the status of open defecation-free (ODF) states under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) or SBM(G), a Parliamentary committee report that was submitted in Lok Sabha on July 19 has observed that the dream of the father of the nation of “total sanitation for all and a clean India is still elusive”.
The Parliamentary Committee on Rural Development (2017-18) headed by Dr. P Venugopal of AIADMK dismissed the claim of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) that about 84 per cent of the rural areas of the country have sanitation coverage as of May 24, 2018. The report read: “The committee while examining the subject was of the view that the sanitation coverage figures seemed to be more on “Paper” but the actual progress at the ground level is very lethargic.”
Earlier, on February 8 this year, the Centre had informed the Lok Sabha that 11 states and union territories had been declared ODF under SBM(G). In a written reply, the minister of state in the ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi declared Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Chandigarh and Daman and Diu as ODF.
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“Even a village with 100 per cent household toilets cannot be declared ODF till all the inhabitants start using them. The main thrust of the Government should be on the usage of toilets as mere building of toilets alone is not sufficient for the realization of actual vision of an ODF country,” said the report.
The report also raises questions on the BJP-led Centre’s ambitious SBM(G). “The poor nature of construction and low quality of raw materials being used in the construction of toilets under SBM(G), as found by committee members and through different feed-backs.” Criticising the improper implementation of the SBM(G), the report added: “No amount of infrastructural development under Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin) or SBM(G) will sustain ODF, until and unless the issue of durability and quality of construction of toilets is taken due care of.”
The concept of SBM(G) warrants focus on sustainable sanitation including toilets, solid and liquid waste disposal systems to every family in the rural areas for overall village cleanliness and improvement in the general quality of the rural areas in the country.
The SBM(G), which was launched on October 2, 2014, has the aim to accelerate efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage, improve cleanliness and eliminate open defecation in India by October 2, 2019. SBM(G) that had been formed by restructuring the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan project that came into action in 2012 has always been portrayed as the main “achievement” of the current Modi regime in the Centre.
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The SBM(G), Modi’s “ambitious” project, has to do much more with obtaining a behavioural change in the rural populace to attain the real motive behind the scheme, the report observed. Expressing the serious concerns over the scheme, the committee urged the MDWS to “bring about a radical transformation in the “behavioural” aspects of the rural masses by inculcating in them a sense of hygiene and other sustainable mechanisms.”
Apart from this, a large amount of funds allocated for the big states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh remain unspent. Ironically, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are up in the list of poor performing states apart from Jammu and Kashmir and Odisha. As per the report, Rs 14,087 crore amount was sitting idle. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have the unspent funds amounting to Rs 2,836.82 crore, 2,764.62 crore and Rs 866.68 crore respectively.