Madhya Pradesh has set an ambitious target of building 18 lakh toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA, clean India campaign) in 2015-16, even as the progress has crawled in the first three months of the current fiscal.
Figures compiled by the Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation show that Madhya Pradesh has built 61,870 toilets in rural areas since April 1, 2015, as against 5.21 lakh toilets in 2014-15.
However, state coordinator for SBA, Hymavathi Varman, said that actual figures are much higher as the entries have to be updated.
With 80 lakh households in rural areas not having the basic facility of a toilet, it is an uphill task for government agencies to ensure that the state becomes open defecation-free by 2019—a target set under the mission.
“We aim to build 18 lakh toilets in the current fiscal and are confident of meeting the goal of making the state open defecation-free by 2019,” she said.
Madhya Pradesh was ranked third last year in availability of toilets behind West Bengal and Karnataka.
The speed of building toilets has picked up since October 2, 2014, when the Union government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission and delinked the toilet construction under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan from NREGA.
Although the cost of building a toilet is about Rs 12,000, funds are not an issue as the World Bank too is helping fund the campaign.
However, construction of toilets alone does not guarantee that a particular village will become open defecation free.
According to NGO Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Sanjha Manch, “awareness about hazards of open defecation is poor. Even in rural houses where toilets have been built, most people avoid it due to behavioural patterns.”
According to experts, many individuals who defecate in the open cite pleasure, comfort or convenience as one of the reasons for doing so.
The SBA aims at attaining a 100% open defecation-free India by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The main objective of the programme is to bring about an improvement in the general quality of life by promoting cleanliness and hygiene.