CHIEF Minister Devendra Fadnavis has plans to declare Maharashtra’s urban areas as open defecation free (ODF) on October 1, but his government is not certain about flaunting the status when it comes to Mumbai. The commercial capital has twice been certified as being free of open defecation by the Union government’s Quality Council of India (QCI) under the Swachh Bharat Mission, once in January this year and then in July.
Now, just before Maharashtra declares all its 384 municipalities as free of open defecation, the state government has convened a special meeting on Tuesday to review the situation in Mumbai. Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick will preside over the meeting. Sources said the state government was wary that the ubiquitous sight of people continuing to defecate in the open in the financial capital will be used to question the chief minister’s grand announcement. “Mumbai has already been certified as open defecation free. The question really is about sustainability in ensuring that the city does not slip back into open defecation. We will review the work for the construction of toilets and the information, education, and communication models used to ensure that people do not defecate in the open,” Mullick said.
Sources said the city was lagging behind in the construction of public toilets. While the Centre’s norms state that there should be one public toilet for every 25 women and 50 men, sources said that in Mumbai, there was a one public toilet for every 70 women and 100 men at present.
Senior Mumbai municipality officials, however, assert that the toilet construction work was up to the mark. “We have ensured that there is a public toilet every 500 meters in areas that are prone to open defecation. We have also deployed clean-up marshals in each administrative ward to fine people found defecating in the open,” said a senior civic official.
A senior civic official, who wished not to be named, however, admitted that the lack of infrastructure in Mumbai’s slums was posing a hurdle. Over 60 lakh people reside in slum pockets in the city. At last count, the city needed to build 2.15 lakh toilets in these slum belts to meet the Centre’s norms. But according to latest estimates, only about 1 lakh-odd toilets have been built.
Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, Mullick had earlier ordered district collectors and municipal chiefs to join “Good morning squads” in visiting traditional open-defecation spots and take urgent remedial measures. Sources said that squads formed in Mumbai have been reporting continuing open defecation in certain pockets.
The government isn’t satisfied with the measures adopted by the civic body to overcome the problem, sources said. Rural parts in the state have already been declared open defecation free. States like Haryana, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala have already been declared as open defecation free under the mission.
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