A year after the Gujarat government declared that the state has become open defecation-free (ODF), the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its latest report has dismissed the claim, saying “it does not appear to be correct”. The CAG report, which was tabled in the state Assembly on Wednesday during the two-day monsoon session, stated a survey conducted in 120 gram panchayats in eight districts found that nearly 30 per cent of the households had no access to toilets, either individual or public.
The Union government had informed Lok Sabha in February this year that 11 states, including Gujarat, have been declared as ODF under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
“The state government declared all the districts of Gujarat as ODF by October 2, 2017. However, information provided by 120 test-checked gram panchayats under eight selected district panchayats for the period of 2014-17 revealed that 29 per cent households still did not have access to toilets (individual or public),” the CAG report said.
“Therefore, the claim of the state government that all the districts of Gujarat were ODF does not appear to be correct,” it added.
Out of the 54,008 households in the test-checked villages, only 38,280 (71 per cent) households have access to toilets, while 15,728 households or 29.12 per cent were without any access to toilets, the report stated.
“The audit observed that the administration had declared all the districts as ODF on achieving the targets set out in the baseline survey conducted in 2012… However, this list was not updated after 2012 and therefore, a number of households did not have any access to toilets and they remained uncovered,” said the report.
When the issue was raised with the state government in March 2018, the authorities claimed that all the villages are now ODF, as more toilets were built later “through CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative”.
The districts selected for the CAG’s survey were Banaskantha, Chhota Udepur, Dahod, Dang, Patan, Valsad, Jamnagar and Junagadh.
According to the CAG report, maximum households without access to toilets were found in Banaskantha district (56.37 per cent), followed by Dahod (40.83 per cent), Chhota Udepur (31.68 per cent), Junagadh (31 per cent), Valsad (30.38 per cent), Patan (14.65 per cent), Jamnagar(12.67 per cent) and Dang (11.37 per cent). Notably, Banaskantha, Dahod, Chhota Udepur, Valsad and Dang are tribal-dominated districts of Gujarat.
The CAG report noted that auditors found that villagers, who had access to toilets, were still not able to use toilets due to several reasons.
In 41 out of the total 120 ‘test-checked’ villages, toilets constructed under the Swachch Bharat Mission could not be used as there was no water connections. In 15 other villages, toilets were not being used either due to non-availability of water and soak pits or they were incomplete, the report stated.
In the tribal-dominated Kaprada taluka of Valsad district, 17,423 toilets out of the total 17,646 constructed with under the erstwhile sanitation campaign, Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, were found to be “defunct”, the CAG report said.
In his response Assistant Commissioner, SBM (Gramin), Gandhinagar, replied to the CAG audit team that “2,529 of the 17,423 defunct toilets had been newly constructed and put to use as of March 2018”.
“But the government’s reply is not tenable as a significant number of households were either without toilets or not able to use it due to non-availability of water or incomplete structure,” the CAG stated in its report.
The CAG has recommended that the government should cover all the “individual households left out…to ensure that everyone has access to toilets”.