Under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government is aiming to make Himachal Pradesh an open defecation-free state by 2019.
The state authorities have formulated a plan to build toilets in all households and schools. The Centre released more than `246 crore for these projects after the state submitted a proposal, but the fluctuating number of migrants may be a stumbling block in translating it into reality in the state that has seen a large-scale influx of industrial workers in recent years.
FOCUS ON BUILDING TOILETS
The hill state, a major tourist attraction, has been working for years on the construction of household toilets and sanitation facilities. “The focus of the sanitation campaign started in 2000 was on comprehensive community-led sanitation strategy. The work to construct community sanitary complexes is on. Against a target of 1,229 complexes, 1,099 have been constructed,” said rural development director Ajay Sharma. But open defecation remains a serious challenge. Of the 3,243 panchayats, only 1,200 have been declared free from open defecation. As per the baseline survey in early 2013, the state has over 14 lakh households and close to 12 lakh of them have toilet facilities.
The remaining 2.5 lakh households, including those where toilets have become defunct, are left to be covered.
There are also several schools without separate toilets for girls and boys. While steps have been taken in the past one year to construct 1,200 toilets in such schools under the Swachh Vidyalaya programme, the pace of work is slow. Another challenge is implementing solid and liquid waste management at the panchayat level, but the government has laid special emphasis on this.
OLD SCHEME NEW NAME
Despite the challenges, the Congress government appears confident of achieving the goals. “There was Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan earlier and the present government has converted it into SBA with some changes,” rural development minister Anil Sharma told HT. He said though the situation was not so bad in the state with regard to sanitation, the programme would help make a difference due to effective implementation by the state government and efforts of all stakeholders.