Modify Laws to Ensure Every House Has Toilet

THE state may not see end of open defecation by 2019. As against a target of over 83,000 toilets – 75,000 in rural areas and 8,020 in urban areas – under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the state has managed to construct merely 4,178 toilets or five per cent. This sanitary mission is not new for Goa as it started in 1985 with Sulabh International as the nodal agency for construction of toilets and 97,103 single-seater toilets were constructed till March 2013. According to official data, not a single toilet has been constructed over the last three years in the rural areas of four Assembly constituencies – Taleigao, Cumbharjua, Calangute and Dabolim and in the urban areas of Margao, Cuncolim and Panaji constituencies. Besides, there are 12 constituencies where the coverage of toilets ranges from a mere 6 to 42.

PWD officials attribute poor progress to the reluctance of landlords to give no-objection certificates to tenants and mundkars. The government should have taken measures to tackle the problem. They should have persuaded the landlords to give NoCs by obtaining an undertaking from the tenant that they would not claim rights over the areas where toilet constructions has been permitted and that the rights were temporary and only for usage of the government-provided facility. Given the fact that there were large numbers of tenancy and mundkarial cases, it should be the endeavour of the government, the landlords, tenants and mundkars to work towards settling the cases mutually or through directions or orders from the competent authorities. Considering the health hazards posed due to open defecation, the state authorities need to work out a solution and ensure that every household has a toilet. As only 350 of the 3,199 sanctioned toilets have been constructed in urban areas, the authorities need to find a solution to the problems faced by people in urban areas too. If needed, the concerned law should be amended to ensure that people had proper sanitation facilities.

Surprisingly three years after the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched, the state authorities have realized that the PWD should not have been selected as the executing agency for implementation of the mission, particularly in rural areas. The authorities are now going to discuss the possibilities of changing the nodal agency. They feel that the responsibility should either be given to the directorate of panchayats or Rural Development Agency (RDA). The reason being cited for changing the agency is that the PWD failed to trigger behaviour change through information, education and communication, which they feel was important to make the Swachh Bharat Mission a success, especially in the rural areas. The government authorities feel that the PWD has not taken its assigned role as nodal agency and is not geared to be in mission mode for completion of the project. The funds allocated for the project are lying unused, though the same should be utilized in time-bound manner. What is more surprising is that the department has not yet carried out any survey to identify open defecation spots and the reason that has been cited is that it does not have adequate staff to cover large geographic areas.

The state has witnessed influx of migrants over the past few decades leading to huge demand for housing. Taking advantage of the growing demand for housing Goans have added rooms to their houses and rented them out to migrants. However, in most cases these added rooms do not have sanitation facilities and the end users are forced to use open spaces for defecation. Besides, quite a large number of houses in the rural areas do not have toilet facilities and people living in these areas use open areas or forests to ease themselves. Though Sulabh toilets have been in existence in Goa for over three decades many houses have not been provided with this facility for various reasons, including red-tapism. The problems are known to the authorities; however, not much has been done to rein in the unscrupulous elements. The government has now decided to issue instructions to the local bodies and health department to direct the house owners to ensure that no owner should give rooms on rent without providing proper toilet facilities. There is also a proposal to explore possibilities for providing multiple choices to the people either by enhancing the subsidy amount from the state government share to construct toilets or by providing bio-toilets in order to achieve the target by the next year. The directions should not merely be eyewash and subordinate authorities should be made to ensure that action is taken against the errant house owners. Basic sanitation facilities should be made a right of the people and those renting out should be made to compulsorily provide these facilities.

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