In March, South-24 Parganas will not only become an Open Defecation Free district, but also the district with the highest number of rural toilets — 6.86 lakh toilets — in the country, according to officials.
According to DM P B Salim, South-24 Parganas along with Burdwan and Cooch Behar will be declared ODF by March 31.
Previously, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that the Nirmal Bangla Project would become one of the models for the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Mission Nirmal Bangla is an offshoot of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and was launched by the state government in concurrence with it on October 2, 2014. The idea was to bring all existing sanitation projects under the scheme, and on April 30, 2015, Nadia became the first district to earn ODF status.
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Since then Hooghly, East Midnapore and North-24 Parganas have been declared ODF. Officials said the panchayat and rural development department aim to make South and North Dinajpur, Birbhum, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling ODF districts in 2017-18, and to declare all districts in the state ODF by March 2019.
“In Purulia, work was lagging behind, but it picked up and the district will be declared ODF as per schedule. The department has been carrying out massive awareness campaigns so people use toilets. Though the toilets are constructed free of cost, they need maintenance. Some NGOs and UNICEF have joined hands with the state government to create awareness,” said an official.
Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee said the campaign was carried out on the maintenance of the toilets.
“We are spending money to construct toilets, but they will have to be maintained properly, and for this awareness is required. Beneficiaries should understand they will use the toilets and maintain them, because without maintenance, it will pose a serious threat and the whole effort will be futile,” he said.
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