Maharashtra has emerged as a leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, with half of the first 10 towns that the Centre declared as open-defecation free being from the state.
The five Maharashtra towns that have made it to the Union ministry of urban development’s (MoUD) list of the 10 towns to be completely free of open defecation include Kagal, Murgud and Panhala from Kolhapur district, Vengurla from Sindhudurg, and Panchgani from Satara district.
A senior official from the state urban development department said, “Earlier, the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission only focused on building toilets. It was Maharashtra that went a step ahead and decided to declare towns as open-defecation free by inculcating healthy sanitary habits in people. The Union government decided to adopt the model, and introduced a third-party check before it declared a town open-defecation free.”
Accordingly, towns were picked from across the country for the third-party audit, after which the Centre decided to declare 10 towns as open-defecation free. Another 10 towns from Maharashtra are currently being audited by the Centre for the next stage.
Maharashtra already has a three-tier verification process before the state declares any town open-defecation free — first at the level of the urban local body, followed by an audit at the collector’s level and finally at the state government’s level. The Union government mandated a third-party evaluation. At the state’s level, the Maharashtra government is looking at declaring a hundred cities open defecation free by October 2.
However, while the Centre has lauded the state’s initiative at going a step ahead of building toilets, Maharashtra’s urban local bodies have relied on several unconventional means to get this done. Some local bodies have displayed photographs of those defecating in the open on billboards, others have chosen to publicly shame them by accompanying such persons home with a dhol-tasha band, or in some cases, officials have also detained people not using toilets in police chowkies