The Modi government might have made ambitious plan to eliminate open defecation across the country but questions are being raised about whether it will be able to succeed in this objective. The government is using technology to monitor the usage of toilets by citizens. Officials will use iPads, tablets and mobile phones and the reports will be forwarded to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Can the government succeed in its mission by only using technology without putting in place a proper ground work?
People openly defecate near railway tracks in the city even though toilets are constructed for them. Commuters who travel from the suburbs to the city for work find people openly defecating near railway tracks daily. If such incidents are happening in a city like Mumbai then you can imagine the plight of small towns and villages across the country.
When AV spoke to Satish Pandey a Kandivali resident he said, “We often defecate in the open area and avoid using the toilets as there is a huge rush in the morning and we have to stand in queues. The government must construct more toilets for us which will save people’s time.”
“We can’t use the toilets as they are poorly maintained with foul smell emanating from them. When the government has launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan it must ensure that this campaign becomes a huge success through effective monitoring” said Rakesh Borse and Malad resident.
The government is planning to involve citizens to take this mission forward. People will be mobilised to upload reports on the ministry website after checking and verifying the use of toilets in rural areas, as part of online citizen monitoring.
Earlier, the government only monitored the construction of toilets, “but now the actual use of toilets will be ascertained on a sustained basis.”
The ministry says it is adding around two dozen additional staff including two Joint Secretaries and other officials to implement targets under PM Modi’s “Swachh Bharat” mission.
In October, PM Modi launched a Rs. two lakh crore programme to free the country of open defecation within five years, doubling the government’s spending on building toilets and asking private companies to help. The programme gives people incentives to build toilets in their homes.
According to a 2012 official survey, only 40 per cent homes in villages have access to toilets. The note prepared by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation emphasised the need for sanitation, saying while having a toilet is important for everyone, access to safe, clean toilets brings particular benefits to women and girls. The main activities under the mission are incentives for individual household latrines, construction of community sanitary complexes, solid and liquid waste management projects, information education and communication, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation.