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Swachh Bharat hits hurdle: Toilet construction left midway, poor say need advance grant

Centre transfers Rs 15K per toilet to beneficiaries in 3 phases; with funds stuck, villagers say they don’t have money to complete construction.

punjab Updated: Mar 22, 2018 10:29 IST
Sarbmeet Singh
Sarbmeet Singh
Hindustan Times, Muktsar
Swachh Bharat,Toilet construction,Swachh Bharat Mission
Kulwinder Kaur, a beneficiary, outside her under-construction toilet at a village in Muktsar on Wednesday.(HT Photo)

A bureaucratic anomaly in transfer of funds to beneficiaries in the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission for construction of toilets has meant that around hundreds of toilets in several villages are not complete.

The glitch is this, the Centre releases payment of Rs 15,000 that a poor family is entitled to for the construction of a toilet in its house in three parts, based on the progress of the work. Poor families say that they cannot arrange the money and need advance grant.

HT toured villages to find many beneficiaries waiting for the grant to complete the construction.

Jaspal Singh, a poor dalit in Khunde Halal village, has constructed walls for the toilet, but lacks the money to complete it. “My wife took ill and I do not have the money to complete the toilet. If the government is serious about ensuring sanitation and building toilets, it should construct these,” he said, adding he had received Rs 5,000 after he had dug up the pit for the toilet.

Another resident Makhan Singh said, “I am a daily wager and earn Rs 300. How will I construct a toilet, without free bricks and cement.” Another beneficiary Baljinder Kaur said, “This is a good scheme, but the government should pay before the construction.”

“We had a target of constructing 4.2 lakh toilets in the state, of which 2.5 lakh have been built. The construction of 1.7 lakh toilets is in progress.” — Mohammad Ishfaq, director, sanitation

‘Beneficiarynot paying contractors’

Even as the issue of money for construction is an impediment, there have been instances when the beneficiary got the toilets constructed from contractors on the promise of paying them when the money came. However, even as the payment was credited to their accounts (typically a month after the toilet is complete), many beneficiaries failed to pay contractors. Kuldeep Singh, a contractor of Rupana village, claimed, “I have constructed many toilets at my own expense. Now, neither the beneficiary nor the department is paying me.”

In certain cases, beneficiaries accuse contractors of leaving them in the lurch. A resident Kulwinder Kaur said, “I am a widow. A contractor approached me. After some work on building the toilet, I received some money that I paid to him. Then, he vanished. How do I complete the construction of my toilet now?”

Muktsar water supply and sanitation junior engineer, Dharmjeet Singh, said, “The amount is transferred directly into the account of the beneficiary. We don’t encourage making toilets on contract.”

Officials speak of targets

Executive engineer RK Gupta said, “In Muktsar division, we have a target of building 24,599 toilets in 137 villages. Of these, 4,535 have been constructed, while 726 are in progress. We have spent Rs 7 crore.”

Speaking to HT over phone, Mohammad Ishfaq, director, sanitation, said, “We had a target of constructing 4.2 lakh toilets in the state, of which 2.5 lakh have been built. The construction of 1.7 lakh toilets is in progress.”

Motivators rue unpaid incentive of Rs 80 per toilet

Motivators appointed under the scheme get Rs 80 per completed toilet in villages under their charge. A motivator, typically, is responsible for three-four villages. They are tasked with receiving application forms of beneficiary for the scheme and inform the Centre through the DWSS App by uploading pictures on the progress of construction.

Jaswinder Singh, a motivator, said, “With toilets not being completed, I am not being paid. In some cases, toilets are without doors and plaster. The beneficiary is using it, yet I do not get money as the toilet has to be completed as per norms.”

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 10:29 IST