THE state government has appointed the panchayat department as the nodal agency for construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA). The change in nodal agency was necessitated due to the gross failure of the Public Works Department to achieve the target of construction of 75,000 toilets under SBA. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) was launched on October 2, 2014 but three years down the line the PWD managed to construct only 3,828 toilets, a little over five per cent of the target. Besides, the PWD did nothing to bring about a behavioral change and better infrastructure for sanitation in rural areas. Despite having the best engineering resources and manpower, the PWD failed to achieve the target on construction of single seater pour flush water seal latrines. Was the failure on the part of PWD due to technical or legal problems or was due to lack of interest in the mission? The government needs to probe and fix responsibility and take appropriate action against those responsible. The performance of the Goa State Urban Development Agency, tasked with construction of toilets in urban areas, is much better with over 35 per cent target achieved.
The panchayat department appears to have taken its new task seriously and has started implementing the work on a pilot basis by selecting three panchayats in each block. Surprisingly, though the government fixed the target of construction of 75,000 toilets, no survey was carried out. The survey for identifying the beneficiaries under the past nodal agency and those who do not have toilet facilities will now be carried out by the Rural Development Authority in either of the two districts of the state. The sanitary mission is not new for the state. A sanitation project was first launched in 1985 and the PWD had appointed Sulabh International as the nodal agency for constructing free toilets. Sulabh had constructed over 97,000 single seater toilets till March 2013. Following the launch of SBA, the state government appointed PWD as nodal agency in 2014 and charged it with the responsibility to ascertain the condition of existing individual and community toilets. It was also directed to construct new toilets and play a pivotal role in making the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a success. The target of the government was rural areas as many houses there did not have proper toilet facilities.
Besides providing toilets to individual households and for communities, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is also aimed at keeping the roads and infrastructure of the country’s cities, towns and rural areas clean. As is the case with the construction of toilets, the maintenance of cleanliness along the roads and open spaces leaves much to be desired. While there is provision for lifting of solid waste in most of the urban areas, most rural areas lack this facility. Despite the facilities for the collection of waste in urban areas, several people prefer to dump the waste along the roads and in open spaces, leave alone the rural areas with no such facility. Even roads and open spaces in Panaji, the capital city of the state, are littered with waste by public. Incidentally Panaji has been declared as a bin free city and in absence of facilities to dump the waste people are forced to dump it along the roads or in open spaces. Besides, many a people can be seen defecating in the open areas of the city.
As the state has fixed the target to make Goa open defecation free by the year 2019, it should carry out the mission on a war footing. Nothing should be left to chances and flawless plans should be drawn to ensure that the work of construction of toilets is begun and completed within the scheduled time frame. Cleanliness should be routine drive and not occasional drives for television cameras. There is need to create awareness in the public about the need to maintain clean environment and its role in leading healthy life. The two nodal agencies for urban and rural areas should work in close co-ordination with the other wings of the government to achieve the target. As the government has set itself the target of making Goa solid waste free by the year 2020, it can use the initiatives launched under SBA to achieve the target. There is possibility of the two agencies encountering various problems, particularly as regards to availability of land for construction of toilets, in which cases the help of state authorities would be vital in land acquisition, execution of the work. The government should provide all help to the agencies in all aspects so that Goa is not only open defecation free but also its roads and highways are free from waste and make SBA a success.