Chhattisgarh's "missing" toilets - Women seek to trace "stolen" toilets
A mother-daughter duo from Chhattisgarh's Amarpur village filed a police complaint stating two toilets from their house have gone "missing". The "stolen" toilets, proposed under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, have already been constructed with allocated funds. But, the only problem is that the toilets exist only on paper. The women want authorities to take action against those involved in the "theft".
Submitted applications for toilets in 2015-16
70-year-old Bela Bai Patel and 45-year-old Chanda are both widows belonging to BPL (Below Poverty Line) category. They submitted applications to the village Panchayat in 2015-16 for the construction of toilets. Pendra Station House Officer Ishaak Khalko said an inquiry was under way.
Construction delayed despite approval
Khalko said the beneficiaries' applications were forwarded to Pendra Janpad Panchayat for approval in 2015-16. Permission was granted but the construction didn't start even after a year. The duo then approached the Janpad Panchayat to enquire about the status of work. To their surprise, the officials informed them that the toilets have already been built, following which they lodged a complaint.
Bela Bai Patel's statement
Bela sarcastically stated: "I am unaware that a toilet has already been built at my home! If the officials aren't lying and I can't find any toilet at my home, I assume it to be stolen. Let police search the toilet of my home."
RTI query seeking information on status of toilets
Local activist Surendra Patel filed an RTI query with Pendra Janpad Panchayat seeking information on the status of toilets in Amarpur. According to the response Patel received, the construction of toilets in the houses of all the beneficiaries was completed and money had been paid for the same. He alleged the toilets were constructed on paper but not on the ground.
Pendra Janpad Panchayat CEO verifying the information
Surendra Patel said, "There is a gross irregularity in the construction of toilets under the 'Clean India' mission in Amarpur village. Few raise voice, others don't." Pendra Janpad Panchayat Chief Executive Officer KS Dhruva stated he is verifying the information.
Pendra was declared an ODF region
Pendra was declared an ODF (Open Defecation Free) region during Chhattisgarh Rajyostav in Nov'16; ironically, several homes are still waiting for toilets to be constructed. As of Dec'16, Chhattisgarh spent over Rs. 498cr on building toilets under 'Clean India'. In Jan'17, CM Raman Singh said the state would achieve the ODF target by 2 Oct'18, ahead of PM Narendra Modi's 2019 deadline.
The complex issue of sanitation in India
Missing toilets lead to poor sanitation, which affects several social indicators like nutrition, food security, disease reduction, and poverty. In 2015, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India said around 250 lakh toilets, built from public funds existed only on paper. India contributes 60% to the world's open defecation; World Bank estimates India's sanitation deficit leads to losses worth 6% of its GDP.