Nearly six out of the ten toilets built by the government under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan don’t have proper water supply, making them unusable, a government survey has found.
The findings have put a question mark over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious target of declaring India open-defecation free by October 2019.
A survey by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) found that while the country’s sanitation infrastructure has seen a slight improvement, a lot is still left to be desired.
Since the NDA took charge in 2014, around 3.5 crore new toilets have been built using government subsidy, which is double the 2001 numbers.
The improvement in sanitation coverage was a result of the government’s decision to give a subsidy of Rs 9,000 to poor households and Rs 3,000 to others for toilet construction, with an aim to ensure that every house has a toilet by the next general elections.
The impressive infrastructure achievement, however, has its pitfalls also. Around 55.4% of people in villages are still opting for open defecation in the absence of water supply and proper drainage in the toilets, the National Sample Survey Office found in a survey of over one lakh households. In cities, 7.5% of the population defecated in the open.
The survey’s findings highlight the hygiene-related risks the limited sanitation coverage poses to the 833 million people living in villages and the 377 million residing in cities.
In the past, there have been instances of people using newly-built toilets as storerooms and kitchen in parts of Madhya Pradesh and UP in the absence of water and a proper drainage.
The survey also pointed out that the number of rural households with a toilet have increased but their percentage in cities has fallen primarily because of a rise in rural to urban migration owing to farm sector distress in the last three years.
Ramon Magsyasay awardee social activist Bezwada Wilson said the Swachh Bharat mission failed to take a note of manual scavenging. “The toilets are being built without any cleaners,” he said.
The survey found that in Assam, Punjab and Odisha no agency was appointed for cleaning even the community toilets built under the mission.
The government’s first big toilet survey found that 40% of toilets in villages were not connected to a drainage system.
In majority of these villages, the survey said, the toilet waste was being released directly into local water bodies, thereby polluting the limited water resources.