A Fresh Debate On ‘Missing Toilets’ In UP
The extent of over-reporting has been close to three times, say experts. According to Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) reports, there are only 17.50 per cent households without toilets in rural UP, whereas the census reports indicate that more than 78 per cent of the households do not have latrines within their premises. According to TSC online data, there are two districts in UP, Lakhimpur Kheri and Farrukhabad, where 100 per cent households have toilets, whereas census 2011 reports show 81.7 per cent and 76.10 per cent households respectively are without toilets in the respective districts.
There is much rejoicing in Gorakhpur district—hitherto in the news only for the annual recurrence of Encephalitis epidemic which has claimed lives of hundreds of children. This time Gorakhpur has hogged the limelight because of its three ‘runaway brides’ who are now being projected as icon of social change. These three young women, upholding norms of human dignity had refused to stay at their in-laws place because there were no toilet facilities there in these households..
Surely these girls, supported by NGOs working in area of sanitation, were inspired by India’s Union Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh’s loaded statement a month ago stating that there were more temples in the country that toilets. It was Jairam who advised that girls should make it a pre-marriage condition that they would not live in a house sans a toilet. And that is exactly what these three brides did and as expected the media, which usually has little time for rural stories, went all out to cover this one as it was what they call ‘off-beat news’. Kudos to the three brides for opening up a fresh debate on UP’s poor sanitation data.
The first to come out and openly applaude the girls was Sulabh International, a non-government organisation (NGO) that works for low-cost sanitation in India. On World Toilet Day—November 18—Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, offered these girls, Priyanka Bharti of Kanchanpur village of Maharajganj, Kumari Priyanaka and Jyoti Kumari of Siddharthnagar and Kushinagar respectively and their spouses regular jobs in the organisation. Priyanka who had taken the lead in this social change had earlier been given a reward of Rs 2 lakh by Sulabh and a new toilet was also constructed by the NGO at her home.
While one can really appreciate the guts and the intention of the three young girls and the efforts of the NGO, one cannot ignore the fact that it is the responsibility of the state government to provide ‘pour water toilets’ for all under the total sanitation programme. The union government had through a central legislation banned the in-human practice of manual scavenging in 1993. Under this law the practise of manual scavenging, done by mainly low caste women, engaged in the task of carrying human excreta from dry latrines, either on their heads in baskets or in iron buckets balanced on their hips. Called ‘mehtars’ their very sight was considered inauspicious and they had to announce their arrival before they entered a house so that the inmates could go inside their rooms and not be confronted by their presence.
The legal act provided 12 years’ time, that is till 2005, for all the states to end this practice and replace these dry latrines by constructing a ‘pour water flush latrine’. The union government provided a major corpus for this while the part of the construction had to be funded by the state exchequer and one-tenth by the house owner. In many cases, even this was waived off if the person was too poor.
DATA ON UP’S TOTAL SANITATION CAMPAIGN (TSC)
■ Total Sanitation campaign (TSC) was launched in India in 1999 to end open defecations by 2017.
■ Scheme got functional in state by 2002.
■ UP is home to 1.06 lakh dry toilets which is the highest in India. (source 2011 census)
■ UP accounts for 39.05 per cent of the nation’s open defecation.
■ UP schools lack proper toilets. National percentage is a poor 16 per cent.
■ Out of the target construction of 6309 toilets in aaganwadis, zero per cent was achieved in five years
■ Enquiry is on in the Rs 2,900 crore toilet scam (missing toilets, fudged figures).
■ National total sanitation budget is Rs 6360 crore. Out of this states contribute 20 per cent.
■ In last five years UP has received highest central fund of Rs 1024 crores for the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC). Lowest was Punjab with Rs 17 crore followed by Kerala of Rs 38 crore.
■ UP utilised only 36 per cent of its budget while Assam followed by using just 39 per cent.
The Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) to end open defecation came into force in 1999, but the scheme was taken up by UP government in 2002. Under this subsidy was provided to get permanent toilets built for rural weaker sections.
Despite having the highest number of dry latrines and the fact that the state had a low caste woman, Mayawati as the head of the state, the authorities failed to meet the challenge within the deadline.The apex court extended the deadline to December 2011 and yet again to March 2012.
Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation’s comparative study says that UP occupies the last rung of the annual implementation Plan 2012-2013 in individual household latrines, school toilets or aaganwadi toilets. While the state claimed that under the Total Sanitation Campaign the state had constructed 1.71 crore toilets scruitiny found that only 55 lakh toilets were constructed. The rest are missing and are shown only on paper. Incidentally, UP also has the largest unspent funds of nearly Rs 150 crore in this financial year. TSC has been renamed as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) and deadline for all rural sanitation has been fixed as 2022. On paper, UP has already achieved its target under the total sanitation programme. District magistrates of 53 districts have already signed affidavits to this effect. But reality is far from the truth. This was discovered by none other than the State Urban Development Minister Mohd Azam Khan, when he on a surprise visit discovered many dry latrines in his own hometown Rampur. An inquiry was instituted and is underway on this misuse of public funds. One hopes that soon the ‘missing toilets will be traced and what is on paper will also become a reality.
The efforts of these three young women to uncover a stinking scam will become a part of an effort to bring total sanitation to the state, and finish forever the practise of ‘dry latrines’ or ‘open defecation.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow