Falling from grace? Centre censures Bihar on sanitation front

Falling from grace? Centre censures Bihar on sanitation front

PATNA: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is still to come in the “good books” of the Narendra Modi government.

This was evident yesterday when the centre severely censured the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar for its “abysmal performance” on sanitation front.

What was significant, the open censuring of the government came during the interaction with the media at the BJP office.

“So far, 192 districts across the country have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) but no district from Bihar figure in this coveted list,” remarked Union minister of state for drinking water and sanitation SS Ahluwalia, talking to media in the BJP office. The minister was here to review the progress of ODF in Bihar.

He wondered over the way the progress of this scheme is too slow in Bihar and said given the current rate, Bihar will not be able to achieve the target even by 2022 while the Union government has planned to declare India ODF by 2 October 2019.

According to the minister, Bihar is currently one of the “worst” states in matter of building toilets. “While the national average for toilet construction is 67 percent, in Bihar it is only 32.5 percent which is just half of the national average,” he said.

According to the minister, Bihar has to construct 1.40 crore toilets in the next 270 days to achieve the target.

“For which, Bihar needs to construct 25,000 toilets per day whereas it is now constructing only 8,000 daily,” the minister said. He asked the state government to prepare a work plan and inform what it expects from the centre.

The censuring comes a little over a fortnight after the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based research and advocacy body, presented a very horrible picture of the sanitation drive in Bihar in its report released on 31 August.

According to the CSE study, Bihar will have to build toilets for some 202 lakh families under the Swacch Bharat Mission.

At the moment the state has the poorest record in terms of rural sanitation as out of the 6.4 crore households without toilets in the country, 22 per cent are in Bihar.

Till June 2017, around 70 per cent of its population was yet to get access to toilets. More than 50 per cent of girls miss school in Bihar due to absence of proper toilets in schools, revealed the CSE study.

According to the study, around 99 per cent of the expenditure of the state has gone towards building of toilets. However, the abysmal quality of the toilets built has meant that their usage has been very low.

“Bihar has converted less than 1 per cent of the total dysfunctional toilets in the country into functional ones,” said Sushmita Sengupta, the lead researcher behind the CSE study.

Even as the state continues to build more toilets, CSE’s research findings showed that the target of 100 per cent household toilet coverage in Bihar will happen only by 2033.

In fact, all the constituencies of Bihar’s leading cabinet ministers are defaulters — none of the districts in which these constituencies are located in can achieve the target by October 2019, says the CSE analysis.

Courtesy: The Statesman

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