Madhya Pradesh has emerged as one of the leading states in building toilets to stop the practice of defecating in the open but it needs at least 85 lakh more toilets to completely stamp out the unsanitary habit by the target date of 2019.
The construction of toilets is now part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Mission and figures from the union ministry of drinking water and sanitation show that Madhya Pradesh built 3.13 lakh toilets between April last year and January 12 under government schemes.
With 85 lakh households in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh still without toilets, it will be an uphill task for government agencies to ensure that the state becomes free of open defecation by 2019 - a target set under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Currently, defecation in the open has been stopped in only 2,700 of the 23,000 gram panchayats in Madhya Pradesh. In percentage terms, 35% of households in rural areas have toilets and the state needs 85 lakh more toilets to achieve its goal.
While the cost of building a toilet is about Rs 10,000, Hymavathi Varman, state programme officer for Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), said funds were not an issue as the World Bank too is helping fund the Swachh Bharat Mission.
The number of toilets in the state would have been higher but the speed of construction was slow during April-October 2014 due to the convergence of NBA with NREGA, she said. “The problem was that even though funds were available for building toilets under NBA, funds under NREGA were hard to come by and it was compulsory to use the NREGA component," Varman told HT.
"The speed has picked up since October 2, 2014, when the union government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission and delinked toilet construction under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan from NREGA. The target for this fiscal year is 9.94 lakh toilets and we are confident of achieving it," she said.
"On an average, a gram panchayat has 500 households. So we are confident of achieving the 100% open defecation free target by 2019," Varman said.
But Karnataka, which built 3.68 lakh toilets in fiscal 2014-15 and West Bengal with 3.22 lakh toilets are ahead of Madhya Pradesh so far. The state has built 79.68 lakh toilets since the total sanitation campaign was launched in 1999-2000.
"However, one of the problems is that many villagers prefer open defecation, even when they have access to their own latrine, and perceive few health benefits of using a latrine," Varman said.
MP has built 79.68 lakh toilets since the total sanitation campaign was launched in 1999-2000.
MP has built 3.13 lakh toilets so far during fiscal 2014-15 and ranks third in the country
2,700 of 23,000 gram panchayats in MP are open defecation free
MP needs 85 lakh more toilets to become totally open defecation free.