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Maharashtra now open defecation free, claims Fadnavis

State government says it has built 58 lakh toilets in the past four years
Hindustan Times | By Ketaki Ghoge, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON APR 19, 2018 12:12 AM IST

Maharashtra is now an open defecation free (ODF) state, according to the state government.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday declared the state’s rural areas to be open defecation free (ODF) with 100% of the rural population of 1.10 crore families having access to toilets. The state had declared all urban areas to be ODF last year.

Fadnavis said the state administration had built nearly 60 lakh toilets in the past five years from 2013-14. And a bulk of the toilet construction had been carried out in the tenure of his government from 2014 onwards (58 lakh toilets). With this, the government claimed as many as 55% of the rural population that would defecate in the open now had access to toilets.

However, the state’s claim to be ODF comes with several riders. For starters, the government clarified this refers to access to toilets for the state’s population either at the independent family level or public and community toilet blocks within 100m. The chief minister also admitted ODF does not refer to actual conversion from defecating in the open to the toilets as that would require greater public awareness.

“A baseline survey in 2012 showed that only 45% of rural families had access to toilets and as many as 55% were defecating in the open. We have managed to provide toilets for these 55% of the population,” said Fadnavis at a press conference held at the government guest house, Sahyadri at Malabar Hill on Tuesday.

Fadnavis said, “For the past 65 years, these people did not have access to toilets. We have managed to provide this access in three-and-a-half years. The phase II the Swacch Maharashtra programme is to raise public awareness to ensure people use the toilets that have been built. Several initiatives, including good morning squads of children, are underway at the village level to encourage use of toilets.”

He was accompanied by rural development minister Pankaja Munde, water sanitation minister Babanrao Lonikar and minister of state Sadabhau Khot at the press conference.

The toilets have been built at the cost of Rs4,500 crore with funds from the Centre and the state.

Every family has been given subsidy of Rs12,000 to built the toilet at an individual level through the gram panchayat.

But one of the big hurdles in the use of these toilets that is access to water has not been addressed. The government has not said that all these toilets will have access to water, putting a question mark on how long and if at all these newly built toilets will get used.

“Even where there is shortage of water or no access, people can use the toilets. Even while defecating in the open, people were carrying and using water,” said Fadnavis, when asked about water access and shortage as a major hurdle in using the toilets.

“Instead of focusing on the negative, why don’t you look at the positive aspects of this exercise,” questioned Fadnavis.

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