State should evolve a system to complete projects in time
Everybody was taken by surprise when the state government declared Goa open defecation free on August 30 last year. Despite the fact that open defecation has not been eliminated in most parts of the state, some civic bodies are trying to take their ODF status to a higher level! The Cuncolim municipal council has announced a plan to acquire ODF-plus status. The council has called upon local residents to submit suggestions and objections to its proposal to impose fines of Rs 100 and Rs 50 respectively on those who defecate and urinate in the open. The question is: if the council was already ODF, why would it need to penalize people for going out and defecating in the open? That fines have been sought to be imposed on violators indicates that all the people of Cuncolim do not have toilets and that the municipal authorities are aware of it. Cuncolim is not alone in vying for the tag. Some other municipalities are also trying to attain ODF+ and ODF++ status as envisaged under the Swachh Bharat Mission, even though people continue to defecate in open places in the absence of toilets.
The state government had declared Goa ODF even though the target for construction of toilets in the identified households was yet to be achieved. After severe criticism from all quarters Chief Minister Pramod Sawant admitted that the government was forced to declare Goa ODF in order to avoid embarrassment at the national level. He went on to claim that achieving 100 per cent ODF status was not only difficult but impossible. “If Goa was not declared ODF it would have been an insult to the state,” Sawant had said. It is sad to note that the government manipulated records to hoodwink the central team that had come to inspect the records in the state vis-à-vis SBM and ODF. This was revealed later when the mayor of Corporation of the City of Panaji, Uday Madkaikar claimed that corporators were forced to give in writing by the commissioner that their wards were ODF and that they had to oblige to save the image of the state. While rushing through the process the government failed to achieve its ultimate goal.
People could still be seen relieving themselves behind bushes in several parts of the state including Panaji. Months after Goa was declared the CCP mayor accused the director of municipal administration of being vindictive and preventing the only municipal corporation from achieving the target of actually becoming ODF. The CCP mayor threatened to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inform him how the DMA was impeding construction of 300-odd toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission. To take up another case, villagers of Shiroda received allotment letters in February this year, though they had given their consent for installation of bio-digester toilets two years ago. With the coronavirus pandemic setting in and lockdown ordered subsequently, the process of installation of toilets further slowed down. The claims by the state government notwithstanding, a number of households in the state do not have private toilets. Nor has the government provided for them community toilets. As the focus has shifted to combating the pandemic, implementation of SMB is no more a priority for the government.
Following the announcement of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by the Prime Minister on October 2, 2014, the state authorities had claimed that Goa would achieve the target much ahead of the deadline of October 2, 2019 and become a model for other states. Goa failed miserably and had to postpone the dates to achieve the targets repeatedly and finally ended up being the last and that too on the basis of botched data. In doing so the government invited ridicule. It is a shame that the government had to resort to falsehood to gain ‘respect’ from national leadership. The state has been laggard in completing the smart city project. The work on transforming Panaji into a smart city has been progressing at a snail’s pace, forcing the central authorities to issue an ultimatum to the state to either complete the project or return the grants given to it. We surely need smart governance to build a smart and clean city.