The state government appears to be in a hurry to make its urban areas declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), with the latest circular stating that the toilets have to be constructed, and handed over, by August 15 this year. This has come as a shock to those involved in the Swachh Maharashtra Mission, as the government has slashed 45 days from the earlier deadline — October 2 — to complete this herculean task.
Of the 384 urban local bodies in the state, over 200 have been certified ODF. While Pune and Konkan have largely performed well on this front, some districts are yet to achieve the status. “We are on schedule and we will meet the deadline. Currently, we are inspecting the last stage of the operations, under which districts that have… lagged behind are being covered,” said mission director Uday Tekade, who was in Parbhani on Friday to inspect the proceedings.
As much as 45.23 per cent of the state’s population resides in urban areas. A whopping 31.36 lakh households do not have toilets in their house. About 22.89 lakh households depend on community toilets, while the government focus is on facilitating the remaining 8.46 lakh households, members of which continue to resort to open defecation.
According to authorities, one of the major challenges is constructing toilets in the newly-added new nagar parishads, which are heavily populated. They pointed out that the nagar parishads were gram panchayats earlier, and hence lack several basic amenities.
When asked about the districts where the operations are still going on, Tekade said, “Some of the districts, including Amravati, Aurangabad and Nagpur, have added several new nagar parsihads under their jurisdiction. “Last week, the sanitation department had ordered that ‘Good Morning’ teams should be set up; these would go on the ground in areas where open defecation is prevalent, and work towards building toilets there.
When asked about the initial response to this week-long exercise, the mission director said it had started to show positive results already. Some of the households have been disbursed amounts to the tune of Rs 27,000 for construction of toilets.
“We have got encouraging results from the teams that have worked and interacted with people, who still don’t have complete access to toilets. In particular, self-help groups comprising women have been effective in bringing about significant change , particularly in the rural belts,” said another senior official involved in the mission.