In Khunti, Jharkhand, government builds broken toilets for Poor
60% of the open defecation in world takes place under the Indian sky. Over half a billion Indians still do not have access to toilets. People still defecate in open fields and along the banks of water bodies. A major health and sanitation hazard, open toilets contaminate the local environment and make communities susceptible to numerous infections and epidemics. Pregnant women, younger children, the elderly and the sick are especially put at serious risk.
With a view to eradicate open defecation and to raise the standards of sanitation and life, the Government of India initiated the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) or the Total Sanitation Campaign. Under this campaign, toilets would be constructed in public as well as private spaces including individual households, schools, anganwadis and communities. The campaign envisages total sanitation by the year 2017. The NBA’s official website tracks the progress of the campaign. The statistics chart shows that over 880 lakh toilets have been constructed. The achievement bar earnestly chases the objective bar. But IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Rejan Gudia says that the NBA’s evaluation needs an urgent reality check.
Rejan recently visited many villages in his district of Khunti in Jharkhand where the campaign was purportedly implemented. What he found was a wasteland of half constructed toilet languishing in various states of disrepair. Water supply was non-existent. Doors are makeshift sack curtains the villagers have suspended. “It is not surprising that most villagers still go the fields to defecate,” says Rejan.
Rejan recounts the dangers of open defecation in his village. “In the rains, there is a very high chance that you will catch a deadly disease. Gastro and typhoid run rampant. When you move into a field, you might be bit by a mosquito and end up with a dangerous strain of malaria or dengue. It is not easy for the elderly or pregnant women to walk long distances to the outskirts. The night brings its own kind of troubles. The absolute nightmare though, is that you might be attacked by a truant elephant.”
For his video, Rejan tried to seek an interview with the local development authorities but they refused to grant him an audience. Rejan was persuasive and one of the officers has promised to conduct a survey. He is waiting for the surveys to begin and meanwhile, he was already tied up with a local organization which will be helping him screen his videos to the afflicted villagers. He hopes that they are encouraged to speak out and pressurize the authorities into taking action.
Says Rejan, “We have been using the fields and river banks for our defecation, ever since I can remember. Toilets are considered a status symbol for the rich. Just because the poor are used it, doesn’t mean that they should continue to make do. A toilet and basic sanitation are their rights as citizens of our democracy. We must fight for it.”