This is the story about India’s missing toilets. And there are about 250 lakh of them, built from public funds but possibly, only on paper.
Government officials have been inflating the number of toilets built from public funds across the country in rural homes and possibly siphoning off money and winning awards too for their extraordinary performance, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India has indicated in its report submitted to Parliament.
The audit report - that refers to the previous UPA government’s tenure - comes at a time the NDA is giving its Swacch Bharat campaign a hard push.
The CAG report cited the Census 2011 report to put the number of rural households with a toilet in the premises at 515 lakh. But according to the government’s records, it had funded construction of 768 lakh toilets under various schemes up to 2011.
So Uttar Pradesh, according to the census, had 5545881 rural households with toilets in 2011. But according to the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, the state had built 15107255 toilets in rural homes under its schemes. As against UP’s 172% excess toilets built over the census numbers, Jharkhand stood at a whopping 326%, Madhya Pradesh at 277%, Chhattisgarh at 183%, Odisha at 199%, Tamil Nadu at 190% and Gujarat stood at 81%.
But it was Sikkim that stood out despite its smaller numbers.
It turns out the Centre ended up funding more houses to build a toilet than the total number of households recorded during the census. Incidentally, the Centre did not seem to question the CAG’s findings and accepted its observations.
“The ministry ... stated that the difference in achievement was probably due to over-reporting to some extent by states (especially in above poverty line toilets) to get more Nirmal Gram Puruskar awards, some toilets falling out of use/becoming dysfunctional due to lack of behavioural change, poor construction quality etc. and difference in methodology of counting the toilets,” the CAG report said.