Are these 500 families in Uttar Pradesh village, an exception or is it part of a trend indicating improper implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission?
“Advertisements promoting the Swachh Bharat Mission are all over the television. The government is shouting from rooftops that toilets will be built. But it’s all a show. Where are the toilets?” asks Pramila Devi, resident of Bhagwanpur Chauthar village in Bhadohi district, Uttar Pradesh. Her main concern regarding the lack of a toilet in her home stems from the inconvenience it causes to her visually challenged teenage daughter, whom she has to assist to an open field whenever required.
“Advertisements promoting the Swachh Bharat Mission are all over the television. The government is shouting from rooftops that toilets will be built. But it’s all a show. Where are the toilets?”
Another resident of the village, Sugara Devi faces a similar problem. “My husband is visually challenged and elderly,” she says. “Where do I take him to urinate and defecate? It makes things difficult for us both. Neither have any toilets been built nor do we have any money to build a toilet.”
But these families are not the only ones in need of toilets. 498 more families do not have toilets in Bhagwanpur Chauthar Village. Recently, when some of these villagers approached the Sarpanch (Village Head) regarding the issue, he said that the budget for constructing toilets is insufficient.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) with much fanfare on October 2 in 2014, with the aim of making India open defecation free by October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of M.K. Gandhi. However, in the two-and-a-half years since its launch, the mission has left a lot to be accomplished on-ground and makes the achievement of this goal seem like a distant dream.
A survey conducted by Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research found that despite the seemingly rampant publicity of the mission, there is little awareness and meaningful engagement at the local level. For example, only 6% of the households surveyed were aware of what Swachhta Doots (cadre of volunteers responsible for creating door to door awareness) are, while only 10% said that they know about the Panchayat Swachhta Samiti (a committee that every village panchayat is required to constitute to look into implementation of the SBM). This despite the mission visualising Panchayats as playing an important role in ensuring that construction of toilets at the local level.
“The village has a Panchayat Swachhta Samiti, however, but ironically the members of this committee themselves are not aware of what their responsibilities are!”
After he shot this video in December 2016, community correspondent Anil Kumar Saroj helped members of these 500 families to send an application for assistance to the Bhadohi Block Development Officer. They hope that this might bring attention to their plight, though they are yet to receive a response. “There are no Swachhta Doots in this village. The village has a Panchayat Swachhta Samiti, however, but ironically the members of this committee themselves are not aware of what their responsibilities are!” says Anil.
The issues plaguing Bhagwanpur Chauthar village are not unfamiliar to Anil as he faces similar problems in his own village of Galhaiya in the same district. “Not a single toilet has been built in our village under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,” says Anil. “Under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (precedent of the current mission that ran from 1999-2014), 50 families received government support for constructing toilets, but as these toilets were made within the minimal budget of 1500 rupees each, most of them got damaged and are unusable today.”
His family is one of 250 families in Galhaiya that is in need of a toilet at home. “My father cannot see properly so the lack of a toilet affects him especially,” says Anil. “Further, it causes difficulty for women in the household as they can only go to the field early in the morning and late at night.”
In March 2017 Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that state government officials will ensure that 30 districts in UP are open defecation free by December 2017. Bhadohi is one among these 30 selected districts. But will this much-publicized declaration have any impact at the ground level or will it amount to yet another empty promise for the people of Bhadohi?
We are all stakeholders in the Swachh Bharat Mission. It is our duty to ensure that our country is open defecation free. Call the Block Development Officer on +91-9454465129 and ask him why the toilets haven’t been constructed in Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh.
Article by Shrishti Malholtra