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HT investigates: The Swachh Bharat Mission sham

Apr 12, 2017 14:05 IST
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Uttarakhand has been ranked as one of the best performing states under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

The SBM dashboard declares, along with Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Sikkim, the state has achieved 100% Individual Household Latrine (IHHL) coverage. The presence of manual scavengers in Jorassi Jabardastpur village in Haridwar district with their faces obscured with dupattas perched on heads and wrapped around shoulders-- however, exposes the mismatch between the government’s data and the ground reality, and how farcical these rankings are.

As HT traversed through Uttarakhand, it’s next port of call was Mahua Dabra Haripura in Udham Singh Nagar district. Here every third household lacks a toilet. There is also no community toilet in the village. Villagers say most of them go to the ‘jungle’ to defecate. The SBM dashboard proclaims Udham Singh Nagar district as an open-defecation-free (ODF) district with 100% IHHL coverage. Local residents and sanitation activists, however, contradict the official claims. They point out that amid a mad rush among the districts to declare them as ODF, facts often are the casualty.

The most startling revelation came from Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district, another place HT visited to do the reality check. It found out that manual scavengers have been hired even by the government, albeit via contractors. As per a government data all the 39,362 insanitary latrines in the state have already been converted into sanitary toilets.

The government officials responsible for the implementation of the flagship scheme, however, remain steadfast in their claim about the success of the project. However, on the ground there are very few takers of the government’s so-called success story.