In spite of the government's claims of Himachal Pradesh being an open defecation-free (ODF) state, majority of migrant labourers defecate in the open in rural areas of the state.
A large number of migrants, especially Nepalese, work in the rural areas of the state. They play a vital role in state's economy as they lend a hand in apple orchards. The problem of open defecation is mainly in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Sirmaur districts.
A sea change has come about in the past couple of decades due to high literacy and awareness levels but the problem persists as far as migrant labourers are concerned. Belying the government's claim, migrant labourers resort to public defecation. Besides Nepalese, labourers from other states who worked here also resort to open defecation.
However, the government has been spending crores of rupees to make the state open defecation free. It had also sent a proposal to the Centre seeking assistance for some arrangements so that Himachal could be made 100% ODF state.
A rural development department official, Robin George told HT that it was a major concern. The department had mobilised rural and urban population for making the state open defecation free, but migrants could not be mobilised.
Referring to different reasons, George said migrant labourers were seasonal inhabitants of the state. “Migrants, especially Nepalese labourers, don't live here permanently,” he said.
George said as the locals do not allow migrant labourers to use toilets, the latter resort to open defecation. “We plan to build public toilets in rural areas to overcome this problem,” he added.
In December 2013, a report released by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) revealed that in rural areas of the state, 257 people per 1,000 do not have toilet facility, while 43 per 1,000 were deprived of it in urban areas.
A survey by the Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA) conducted in 2013 showed that 64% of migrants in Shimla live in shanties that do not have the provision of toilets and 13% of them go for morning ablutions near some water source.
Though there were public toilets in towns, the labour class in rural area was deprived of the facility.
According to the data provided by rural development department, of the total 3,243 panchayats in the state, 1,011 have already been declared Nirmal Gram Panchayats while 695 more panchayats had applied for the award last year. The state has 20,690 revenue villages and nearly 90% villages are claimed to be open defecation free.