'Honesty needed to get desired sanitation result'

Jairam Ramesh says he is working to emulate Finland, a leader in ecological sanitation

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Puja Bhattacharjee | April 25, 2012



Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said money is not a constraint but honesty is required to make progress in the field of sanitation and hygiene. He was addressing a workshop on water, sanitation and hygiene at the Park Hotel on Wednesday.

“The budget allocation for sanitation and hygiene has increased from 10,000 cr to 14,000 cr this year. But we require honesty and integrity to get desired results,” said Ramesh referring to discrepancies between the figures reported by the centre and the census. Ramesh said progress has been made but gaps are still there. Forty percent schools in rural areas still do not have separate toilet facilities for girls. “It is a shame that we cannot provide facilities to 60 percent women. Investment is needed in rural schools,” said Ramesh. He said sustainability is a problem and cited the example of some gram panchyats who in spite of being felicitated under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan program slid back to their “non-nirmal” status.

Manoj Shukla, who works with the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) wing of UNICEF, Moradabad says they invite students and teachers in schools. “We have student cabinets in schools with a prime minister, water and environment minister, health and science minister. They interact with the gram panchyats, students and the school to voice their needs. The children facilitate in cleaning the school and maintaining hygiene.”

Alfiya Muskan (11) is the prime minister of the student cabinet of Akbarpur Chaidri village. Her teacher Abdul Rauf motivated her to make a difference in the hygiene conditions of her school and she is enjoying doing the work. “I am very happy with the participation of other students and my teacher stands firmly behind what I do,” says Muskan.

“In Anantapur where I work, primary schools have no running water in toilets. The problem is acute in dry areas due to over-exploitation or low ground water tables,” said Hilda Grace who works with the center for rural studies and development, Andhra Pradesh.

“The budget is allocated only for construction of toilets and not for maintenance or repair,” said Grace. Grace adds high schools have toilets with proper facilities. Upon enquiring about this anomaly between elementary and high schools, Grace says, “High schools are only in a few villages. All the primary schools feed into the high schools which are centrally located. But retention is low”. Grace says that students defecate in the open.

Ramesh stressed on the need for innovation and mentioned that he and his colleagues are working to emulate Finland which is the leader in ecological sanitation. “Technological innovations are very important. We need to bring down cost. New technology is required which would last for 15 to 20 years and would be self-maintaining.”

Grace says that she is happy with the fact that the issue has been taken up at the highest level. “Funds have increased for construction of toilets and water points. The Right to Education act which states that there should be proper toilets and drinking water facilities in schools and a subsequent PIL filed in Supreme Court has helped make progress,” said Grace. She adds that though certain schemes like the menstrual hygiene management are laudable, she is yet to see these implemented.

Ramesh cited the example of Maharashtra, Haryana and Sikkim to highlight the progress made in sanitation and hygiene. Sikkim is the first Indian state to be open defecation free and in Haryana which is deeply patriarchal the slogan “Shauchalaya nahin to dulhan nahin” has made considerable difference and developed a sense of participation among people.

“As a country we are very comfortable with the idea of individual hygiene and collective filth. We need to inculcate a sense of anger and shame to reverse the existing conditions,” summed up Ramesh.

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