On Sunday, it was “halla bol, lungi khol”. On Monday, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation’s (RMC) campaign to check open defecation changed to “halla bol, khule mein shauch karne waale ko door le jaa ke chhod (those who defecate in the open should be taken and dropped far away)”.
With just a week left to meet the October 2 open defecation free (ODF) deadline in urban areas, the RMC has resorted to naming and shaming. On Sunday, at least 10 people who were caught defecating in the open were made to hand over their lungis to the RMC “enforcement” teams. Their lungis were returned only after they pledged that they would not defecate in the open again. They were also made to pay a fine of Rs 100 each.
On Monday, those defecating in the open were picked up, dropped some distance away, and made to walk home after taking the pledge. Officials said at least eight people were punished and fined. The idea is to make them understand that defecating in the open could cause them embarrassment, said an official.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Jharkhand Urban Development Minister C P Singh, who is also the Ranchi MLA, said: “It is just a part of the entire exercise. We have constructed toilets. Water supply is being provided wherever required. There may be shortcomings here and there. On the other hand, we have to raise awareness. For this, we have run concerted drives telling people why they should not defecate in the open. Like a drive by the traffic police to wear helmets, we first raised awareness, then imposed fine, and are now trying some of these methods. This is not aimed at harassing people. The idea is to create some sort of deterrence.”
A municipal official said at least 18 “enforcement” teams have been formed. “Such drives were going on earlier too. We would use different ways to make sure people got the message… It is true that the deadline is nearing and, hence, the frequency of the drive has increased,” said a senior official associated with the campaign.
“The drive is part of a multi-pronged strategy to make people aware that they are not doing the right thing by defecating in the open. Public ostracism is often a good deterrence. The results show that these initiatives are helping to check the number of those who defecate in the open… We will continue till October 2, and beyond. We are clear that those who have toilets should use them; those who don’t should use the community toilets,” said Municipal Commissioner Shantanu Agrahari.
However, Ranchi Mayor Asha Lakra said she did not support such initiatives. “I don’t think it is good. We never passed a formal order. Creating awareness is one thing. I have talked to officials, I am sure this will not recur. It may have happened at one or two places,” she said.
One of the areas raided by the RMC teams on Sunday was Sahjanand Chowk, near Harmu Housing Colony. Gopal Prasad Soni, an autorickshaw driver, was one of two persons caught defecating in the open. His daughter, Naina Kumari, said he was made to pay a fine of Rs 100. “He did not tell us about having to take a pledge or his lungi being taken away. But he got caught because he went in the open,” she said. “We don’t have a toilet. We had applied for one, but it was rejected,” she claimed.
While there is a public urinal nearby, Naina pointed out that “there is no toilet in the gents section”. “There is a toilet in the ladies’ section which was installed three-four months ago,” she said, adding that men sometimes use this facility. “In fact, my father too was stopped from using the ladies’ toilet. So he went outside, but was caught,” she said.
“We have constructed community toilets in all the slum areas where there was no space for individual toilets. They are around 20 in Ranchi. There are 50 additional modular urinals,” said Shashi Prakash, city manager, RMC.
In Kona Toli of Dibdih, another area where the raids were carried out, most houses have their own toilets. “But the problem is that the owners have rented out their premises to many people. The tenants, mostly daily wagers, labourers, rickshaw-pullers, auto-rickshaw drivers, are not allowed to use these toilets. So where will they go,” said Savita Kujur, Councillor of Ward No. 38.
According to municipal officials, a total of 31,559 toilets have been constructed as part of the ODF campaign. “The construction part is over. Most of them also have water supply. It is our responsibility to ensure water supply in all the toilets… That process is going on at a fast pace. The priority area will be the slums, where community toilets have been constructed,” said an official.