THE government has decided to give responsibility of toilet construction under Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to the Goa Waste Management Corporation and divest Goa State Urban Development Agency and department of panchayat from it. The abrupt change means that the new agency will have to begin the process afresh and in all possibilities the state will miss the deadline of October 2, 2018 to make the state open defecation free. The October 2 deadline was announced by the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. According to government estimates, 72,000 toilets need to be installed or constructed so as to make Goa ODF. The sudden decision by the government to shift the responsibility has puzzled not only GSUDA but also the GWMC. The GSUDA was in the process of inviting proposals from eligible contractors for installation, operation and maintenance of the bio-toilets and bio-digester tanks of DRDO technology. The change in the implementing agency would mean that the new agency would have to begin the process from scratch which could delay the implementation of the scheme indefinitely. The sudden change of implementing agency has brought the efforts of GSUDA to a naught.
While the government has plans to install bio-toilets throughout the state in view of their affordability, ease of maintenance and water saving factor, it could encounter a major hurdle in the implementation of the project over the issue of social acceptance of bio-toilets by public. Besides, the bio-toilets have limitations as only six people can use the toilet in a day with minimum water. There could be hundreds of families in the state having more than six members as such bio-toilets may not serve their purpose given their limitations. The authorities need to identify such families and explore the possibility of providing them more than one toilet or providing them conventional toilets. In such a possibility the time needed for construction could be longer and the cost would be higher. It is also necessary that government creates public awareness among the beneficiaries of technologically advanced toilets for their proper use, especially in rural areas. Failure could lead to their improper use and they meeting the same fate as Sulabh toilets met earlier, and became storerooms. Since the survey is still being conducted in rural areas, the government could direct surveyors to not only identify the houses without toilets but also the number of people living in the household.
New responsibility has put the GWMC officials in a fix who appear to be clueless on how to implement the project and delivering it in time. Since the government has not made any specific allocation of funds for the newly foisted project, the corporation management has worries about raising the funds for the project. With the cost of each bio-toilet being in the range of Rs 40,000 to Rs 45,000, the corporation would need over Rs 300 crore to complete the project. While the corporation, being a government entity, can raise funds from various sources, but it has to have baseline data of the number of toilets to be constructed. While the government has announced the scheme it is yet to formulate policy for sharing the cost of the toilets between it, the local bodies and beneficiaries in procuring the bio-toilets. Till the nitty-gritty is decided there is possibility of the corporation not being able to draw plans to implement the project. While the number of toilets needed in urban areas stands at a little over 3,000, while those in rural areas is not known as the survey is not yet complete. The corporation would have to wait till survey is completed and all other issues are sorted out to set the tendering process in motion, which may not be done anytime soon as the Chief Minister is away from the state.
Whatever may have been the compulsions before the government in shifting the responsibility, one thing is sure that the efforts made by the GSUDA to set the project for installation of toilets have gone waste. The GWMC will now have to start the process on its own afresh and constitute a committee of experts to study the specifications of bio-toilets and changes required in the tendering process. Having shifted the responsibility, the government should provide the corporation all the necessary help, including funds and data, so that the process for implementing the scheme begins forthwith and that the construction or installation of toilets under the prestigious scheme is completed in shortest possible time to make Goa open defecation free. While the scheme would be taken to logical end in days ahead, it will surely not achieve the ODF target by October 2. With the deadline likely to be missed it remains to be seen whether Goa could achieve the distinction of being the first state in the country to procure bio-toilets for identified individual houses and become totally ODF.