The Uttar Pradesh government has been sitting on Rs. 293 crore provided by the Centre for building toilets considered key to the security of women in rural India.
With the Badaun rape and murder incident underscoring the issue of lack of sanitation facilities in villages, the Union rural development ministry on Tuesday asked the UP government to utilise the funds under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA). UP used only 46% (Rs 250 crore out of total Rs. 543 crore) of the scheme intended to make India open defecation-free.
“UP has an available balance of Rs. 293 crore and Badaun district Rs. 1.04 crore. Adjoining districts also have sufficient funds available. State is requested to take urgent steps in the matter so as to ensure availability of adequate sanitation facilities especially for women,” Sarswati Prasad, joint secretary, department of drinking water and sanitation, wrote.
Two minor girls who were cousins were abducted, raped and then murdered in village Katara (Badaun district) on the intervening night of May 26-27 when they had stepped out of their house to relieve themselves.
The incident put the focus on the lack of sanitation facilities in rural UP besides leaving United Nations secretary general Ban Ki Moon ‘appalled’.
“Any woman defecating in the open is vulnerable and government must acknowledge the issue,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International that specialises in low-cost sanitation.
The organisation has implemented plan to make toilet for each house in Katara.
Official statistics reveal only 1.17 crore of 3.29 crore households in UP have toilet facility, forcing 14.82% people in urban areas and 77.13% in rural areas to defecate in the open.
“At least 65% of the rape cases in rural areas happen due to lack of toilets,” said IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta.
Like Uttar Pradesh, its neighbours Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan have a poor sanitation record with only 30-47% spent on building toilets.
The better performing states – Arunachal Pradesh (72%), Maharashtra (70%) and Jammu and Kashmir (64%) — are yet to utilise their money fully too.
Under NBA, begun in 1999, the centre contributes Rs. 4,600 and the state Rs. 1,400 for each toilet.
Another Rs. 4,500 per toilet comes under MGNREGA.