After having missed several deadlines to make Goa open defecation free (ODF) the government has started the process for selection of contractors to undertake construction of over 60,000 bio-toilets. The Goa Waste Management Corporation changed the specifications seven times in four and a half months for bid for installation of bio-toilets. The huge delay could cause Goa miss the bus to become the first state in the country to be ODF. Even though the process has been set in motion to select contractors it has come to light that the survey to identify households without toilets cannot be relied upon. The survey is rid with flaws, rendering it impossible for the government to identify the houses and arrive at the exact number of toilets needed to be installed. It has come to light that the process was got done hurriedly because the five-year term for the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin is coming to an end in October 2019. The surveyors apparently resorted to doing armchair job in preference to going to the field to identify households lacking toilets. One of the reasons cited for the shoddy job was that they were offered paltry sum for the job, which was yet to be paid to them.
Now that the government has set October 2, 2019 as the new date for installation of bio-toilets it should first get an authentic survey of every part of the state done so as to ensure that every house without toilet is enumerated and the need of the people is properly identified. It is regrettable to note that the Rural Development Agencies sought the help of self-help groups and pressed 2,000 women to conduct the survey without giving them proper training for conducting survey and without any technical assistance in the process. The enumerators were directed to paste mission logo on sidewalls or doors of the surveyed houses and no exercise was apparently done to verify they did the job or not. There have been complaints from the residents of Taleigao, St Cruz, Merces and other villages that no enumerator ever approached them to inquire about toilets. There is every possibility that surveyors doing casual work have included houses with toilet and left out those without.
That state has been lagging behind in meeting the targets could be seen from the fact that out of 11,798 toilets approved since October 2014 under the central government scheme only 3.5 per cent of them have been constructed. Of the 6,391 toilets approved in North Goa in three talukas — Bicholim, Bardez and Pernem — only 359 toilets have been built, while in South Goa of the 5,407 approved in Mormugao, Canacona and Sanguem talukas only 46 toilets have actually been built. The state has only 236 Swachhagrahis (cleanliness ambassadors), who have been mandated to play an important role in achieving ODF status and sustaining it through post-ODF activities. The funds released under the Swachhagrahis scheme were underutilised. According to the norms every ward should have one cleanliness ambassador. Goa has 1,550 panchayat wards in 191 villages, so their number should have been 1,550. Though Goa is seen as a progressive state, there are a number of households which have failed to have a toilet. There are house owners who have expressed their inability to pay their share for installation of toilets; the government must find an answer to the problem at the earliest.
Only 22 villages have achieved ODF status, of which 16 are in North Goa and six in South Goa. Out of 191 villages 169 villages are yet to become ODF and the state authorities face a herculean task in achieving the target. None of the 14 urban bodies, including the Corporation of the City of Panaji, has become ODF yet. Given the fact that past deadlines have been missed with no one taking fresh dates seriously the authorities need to focus on installation of the toilets on a war footing and declare Goa ODF by the deadline. Though the authorities have fixed a target of 60,000 bio-toilets there is every possibility their numbers might go up following a proper survey. In such an eventuality the cost could go up by scores of crores of rupees. As the government aims to make Goa not just ODF but also a model state they have to find funds for the mission and seek help from Centre as the state’s financial health is not very good. Time is running out. The government must act fast.