Construction of more toilets in certain areas than the approved number, details of beneficiaries not matching the documents submitted, and money not released to the intended beneficiaries are some of the glaring lapses found by a government audit in the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in urban areas.
These revelations of the audit, conducted by the Union urban development ministry in three districts each of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh in May, fly in the face of claims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet cleanliness scheme to make India free of open defecation by 2019 is on track.
The audit found that the number of toilets constructed in 15 urban local bodies (ULBs) of Maharashtra and 20 in Uttar Pradesh was a lot higher than the applications approved.
A scrutiny of the online status provided by the ULBs showed that while only 85 applications for individual household toilets at Akola in Maharashtra were approved, photographs of 2,978 completed units were uploaded on the SBM website.
Similarly, while ULBs put up photographs of 80, 170 and 363 constructed toilets at Bhadohi, Jahanabad and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh respectively, a scrutiny of the data found that not even a single application for these places was verified and approved.
In the Pune Municipal Corporation area, the audit team came across application forms where details of beneficiaries did not match the documents – such as Aadhaar cards – provided by them. While toilets were built at Tumakuru and Bangarpet in Karnataka, and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, they had neither water connections nor linkage to septic tanks.
Beneficiaries in urban areas are given central assistance of `2,000 under the SBM as an incentive to build toilets at home. In Tumakuru, the incentives paid to beneficiaries were double or triple the prescribed amount.
On the other hand, many eligible beneficiaries in Maharashtra and Karnataka did not receive the first instalment of funds – forcing them to make their own monetary arrangements. The audit said this discouraged many of the beneficiaries, causing “slow progress” in terms of achieving SBM targets.
The three states have also failed to achieve their targets for building household toilets over 2014-15 and 2015-16. While Karnataka achieved just 2.1% of the targeted number, they were followed closely by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra at 4% and 14.4% respectively.
The audit team noted that the slow progress in meeting the SBM target may result in “non-achievement of the objectives/targets of the SBM by 2019”. It also accused state governments of failing to transfer central funds to ULBs in many instances.