When political parties in Punjab are gearing up for assembly elections, the state government has kick-started the construction of a large number of toilets under the "Mission Swacch Punjab" to make the state open defecation-free in an alleged move to woo the voters.
About 44,000 toilets in Muktsar and 12,000 in Faridkot are reportedly going to be constructed under this project. Each beneficiary would be provided Rs 15,000 as financial help for the construction of a toilet.
"In Faridkot, we aim to construct about 680 toilets by October 2 and about 12,000 are planned to be construed in two years to make the district free of defecation in the open," said Mohammad Tayyab, deputy commissioner, Faridkot, who was presided over the one-day workshop organised by the water supply and sanitation department in Faridkot to create awareness about the scheme.
"We have found in a survey that about 12,000 households do not have toilets, the scheme can be extended to more on the availability of funds and we want to discourage open defecation which leads to many diseases also," the DC said.
The toilets are supposed to be constructed in those households. which do not have the facility so far.
"About 44,000 toilets, at an estimated cost of Rs 66 crore are going to be construed in Muktsar to make it free of open defection by the end of the year. The toilets would be constructed by the people themselves and they would be provided `15,000 for the purpose by the government. The work would be monitored by the village level development committees and after it, a sticker would be pasted on the door of the house of the family showing that it has been connected to the mission clean project," said Jaskiran Singh, deputy commissioner, Muktsar.
About 24,064 toilets are supposed to be constructed in Muktsar block alone.
"The construction of the toilets for those households, which do not have it is a welcome move, but its timing seems to be a tactic to woo voters as it has been started just ahead of elections. Most of the people, who do not have toilets, actually belong to the economically weaker sections of society who get swayed by such projects ahead of elections. The village-level leaders use their influence to provide such grants, and then they influence the people during elections," said Darshan Singh Dhilwan, organising secretary of the Scheduled Caste (SC) cell of the state Congress.
"Earlier, too, the state government had fitted free-of-cost toilets with specially painted doors to convey the message that toilets were construed free of cost. It is the duty of the government and not any obligation. Using public welfare schemes to influence voters is unethical," said Darshan.
"The project has been started now with eye on elections," said Mohar Singh, a resident of Faridkot village. About 7.92 lakh toilets are supposed to be construed across the state.