The newly-elected woman sarpanch of Mulkhed village of Mulshi taluka, Suvarna Tapkir, has been saddled with the task of ensuring her village of a little less than 1,200 members and 142 families use the toilet blocks constructed under the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. The village in the picturesque Mulshi taluka has independent houses with newly constructed toilet blocks. But most of toilet blocks remained locked. Many do not even have the necessary water connection.
While the taluka was declared ODF (open defecation free) in February this year, Mulkhed is among the three villages in the taluka that were found lagging behind in terms of usage during a recent verification drive. The other two are Chinchwad (with a registered population of 323) and Veghere (194).
Just weeks after she was elected as sarpanch, Suvarna, along with the gram sabha members, announced imposition of fine on those caught squatting outside. “While toilet blocks have been constructed, many people are still squatting in the open. We will levy a fine of Rs 1,200 for those relieving in the open wherein the person who informs the gram panchayat will get Rs 200 as reward. The remaining amount would go into the gram panchayat’s fund,” says Suvarna.
The gram panchayat members, however, say much more needs to be done to ensure villagers use the toilet blocks. Continuously educating the villagers tops their agenda. The panchayat is planning a special gram sabha session to address the issue. “While nearly 700 villages in Pune district have had a special gram sabha on August 15 to pass a resolution against defaulters who do not construct toilets and take stringent action against them, we will have to take a meeting to ensure people use the toilets,” says Suvarna.
A villager who had kept her toilet locked says though they were not getting enough water, they would start using it since they feared being defamed. “The old people in the village do not listen and continue to squat outside. We need to change their mindset,” says Suvarna.
G P Shinde, extension officer for village panchayat in Mulshi taluka, says he would take stringent action against the gram sabha for not ensuring the use of toilets.
“I have myself seen many squatters from this village and have been informing the village time and again,” he says.
Block Development Officer Dr Smita Patil says there are 95 villages in Mulshi taluka which was declared ODF after the construction of toilets in February this year. “However, these three villages are lagging behind. They also have some tribal population which does not have land for construction of toilets. But the issue has been resolved. We have allotted these people space to construct common toilets,” she says.
The taluka has 28,642 families and 1.72 lakh population.
“There were 52 villages which had tribal population of about 222 families near the Tata dam as well as at Bhambarde and Ambhakhed where common toilets were constructed. Moreover, even government land encroached upon were allowed to have toilet blocks to ensure the taluka achieves 100 per cent ODF,” says Patil.