Poll season is close and top-shot leaders ought to be worrying about defection. But Union Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has his sights trained further off — on the 2010 Commonwealth Games – and his chief worry is defecation. Villagers relieving themselves out in the open, that is.
With hardly 21 months to go for the Games, Delhi cuts a sorry figure on the sanitation front. Consequently, Singh has written separate letters to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, urging them to declare the entire national capital a ‘no open defecation zone’.
Sources in the ministry told HT that both the Delhi government and the Union Urban Development Ministry were yet to take action in this regard.
According to the Rural Development Ministry, its main goal is to eradicate the practice of open defecation in the entire country by 2010. As Delhi is set to host the Commonwealth Games in October 2010, it would be appropriate on the part of the ministry concerned and the state government to declare the entire national capital a ‘no open defecation zone’ to avoid national embarrassment during the Games.
Given the increase in Delhi’s slum and rural population, poor people defecating in the open has become a common sight.
India and the south Asian nations of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan had pledged in 2004 to urgently achieve safe sanitation for all. They are also committed to halving the numbers without access to safe sanitation by 2015, in keeping with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
According to UNICEF, India’s ‘Total Sanitation Campaign’ is currently operational in 578 of the 600 rural districts, with 48 per cent of rural populations having access to toilets and sanitation services. The aim is to achieve full coverage by 2012.