Construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) seems to be a ‘mission impossible’ for the Madhya Pradesh government for now as it is well below the target, according to the union ministry of drinking water and sanitation figures.
The state government has set the target of building 18 lakh toilets this financial year in the rural areas. Till September, it had constructed only 3,40,263 toilets since April as against 5.21 lakh toilets during 2014-15. Officials exuded confidence that it would gain pace with the passage of time.
The speed of building toilets had 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.
The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims at achieving 100% open-defecation-free India by 2019, on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The main objective of the programme is to bring about an improvement in the quality of life by promoting cleanliness, hygiene and accelerating sanitation coverage.
Experts said that there were over 75 lakh households in rural Madhya Pradesh to get the toilets by 2019, which at present seems to be an uphill task.
However, SBM state coordinator Hymavathi Varman said her department was confident of meeting the goal of making the state open defecation free by 2019.
Madhya Pradesh was ranked third last year after West Bengal and Karnataka in the number of toilets built under this scheme. At the end of September, Rajasthan leads the tally with 8,84,399 toilets followed by West Bengal at 7,87,855.
While 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 Swachh Bharat Mission.
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 behavioral patterns.” A lack of running water is also a problem in many villages.