Swati Chandra | June 30, 2015 | New Delhi
The Narendra Modi government has promised that every household in India will have toilets by 2019. This also accounts for complete eradication of open defecation. The construction of toilets with the given target began with launch of Swachh Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014. The nationwide campaign covering 4,041 statutory towns is expected to cost Rs 62,000 crore ($9.7 billion). Despite all the plans, fully constructed toilets are yet to be marked on the official check list of the programme.
Out of 18,830 sanctioned community toilets only 6,137 community toilets have been constructed as on May 21, 2015. This is evident from a newsletter issued by Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) revealing the slow pace of construction. The same newsletter also mentions that as many as 7,246 public toilets were sanctioned so far, out of which only 1,803 were completed. This is the national picture. If we look at the individual states, results would be more astonishing.
The target of eradicating open defecation probably starts with providing toilet facility in every household. A sneak peek into the SBM-U report makes it evident that despite thousands of applications received, no individual toilets were sanctioned in Haryana, Punjab, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Delhi and Odisha. A total of 26,76,276 applications for household toilets were received out of which 10,22,855 toilets were sanctioned.
In Uttar Pradesh, no new community toilets have been constructed so far even after the government has sanctioned a requirement for 400 toilets. Similarly, no community toilets have been constructed in Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Odisha and Jharkhand despite the huge requirement. Delhi and Chhattisgarh, however, have achieved the target to some extent.
Community toilets are a major necessity in urban slums. Most slum-dwellers defecate in open due to lack of proper toilet and drainage facilities.
According to a United Nations report of 2014, in India 597 million people (47% of the population) defecate in open. The numbers are way too higher as compared to Indonesia (54 million), Pakistan (41 million), China (10 million) and even African countries such as Nigeria (39 million) and Ethiopia (34 million).
Report card is more disappointing in case of public toilets. Only Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha seem to be doing well. Other states have either not constructed even a single public toilet or have not identified the requirement for public toilets. Uttar Pradesh, in particular, did not identify a single public toilet to be built under the mission, despite the sorry state of public conveniences in the state.