Aspirants for elections to local bodies, including municipal corporations in Gujarat, will now have to prove that they have toilet facility at their homes or they will not be able to contest.
The legislative assembly on Monday unanimously passed the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014, making it mandatory for every aspirant who want to contest elections to district, taluka, village, panchayat, municipality and municipal corporations to first prove that he/she has a toilet facility at home as per the new amendment made in the existing law.
While putting the bill to vote, state road and building minister Nitin Patel said that those willing to fight elections to these local bodies must submit an affidavit on toilet facility.
"Candidates who don't have such facility at his/her residence, cannot contest upcoming elections to local bodies, including corporations, municipalities, and panchayats.
"Those who are already elected are now required to submit a certificate within a period of six months to declare that he is having a toilet at his home," Patel told the House.
"Curbing open defecation is vital from the point of view of creating hygienic conditions and cleanliness and preventing water contamination," the state government said.
A recent report by the UN children's fund UNICEF estimates almost 594 million -- or nearly 50% of the country's population -- defecate in the open. Being forced to squat outside at night also exposes some 300 million women and girls to potential harassment and assault.
The issue was highlighted in May when two girls, aged 12 and 14, were attacked as they went into the fields to relieve themselves.
The bill also proposed two more amendments, the first being holding bypolls for municipal corporations within six months of the seat(s) falling vacant, bringing the time period on par with that of municipalities. Earlier, the time limit for municipal corporations to hold bypoll was three months.
As per another amendment, the minimum population of any area to declare it as a village will now have to be 25,000 as against current 15,000.
"The earlier limit of 15,000 was based on the figures of Census carried out in 1991. Now, we have to take into consideration the latest figures of 2011 Census," Patel said.
The bill was passed unanimously through a voice vote.
(With inputs from PTI and AFP)