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Goa Yet To Be ODF

Government must admit its failure and rectify its mistakes to make Goa ODF

PANAJI mayor Uday Madkaikar has alleged that government officials used deceit to bring civic bodies and panchayats ‘on board’ to declare Goa open defecation free. He accused them of getting corporators to give certificates that their wards were OPF on the promise that construction of toilets in their wards would begin on September 10. The civil servants are the sheet anchor of government; they should not have done such things in order to hoodwink people. Questions had been raised about the authenticity of the government’s claim when it declared Goa ODF. With the CCP mayor’s revelations, the doubts about the truthfulness of the claim have been reinforced. A fraud has been allegedly played upon not only the people waiting for toilets to come to their place but also Goans at large who are concerned about Goan pride; their pride is hurt by the alleged lie.

Many found it bewildering that even though Goa figured last in the list of states in terms of achieving the target of toilets to be set up under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the state government declared Goa ODF on August 31. The fast tracking was done on paper, and was doubly justified by using a technical ground which relied on access of people to a community toilet within a certain distance. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the declaration of the state as ODF was done on the basis of the criteria adopted by other states. The state government’s bluff on ODF was called when people from a number of panchayats and urban bodies complained that they had not been provided toilets though they had paid for them. Even though there were no toilets made for them those found defecating in the open after the state was declared ODF were penalized by some local self-governing bodies. After opposition, penalization has stopped.

It is worth noting that Sawant had sought the support of all panchayats in making the state ODF by the end of August 2019 despite the fact that his government had not built or installed all the 30,000 toilets needed. In a letter written to local bodies he had promised to provide for community toilets through the Goa Waste Management Corporation by August 31. Though the government failed to make individual as well as community toilets available to all of the target population they made sure that all local bodies gave them the required undertaking that they were equipped with toilets so that Goa could be declared ODF. The local bodies gave the consent to help the state get the tag of being ODF lured by the promise that toilets would be constructed or installed in the near future. Though three weeks have elapsed since the state was declared ODF work on installation of bio-digester toilets is yet to begin. The issues related to construction of concrete toilets in towns too are yet to be resolved.

There was absolutely no need for the state government to cover up its failure to achieve the target of toilets. The government should have admitted its failure. The problem with the government is that both the ministers and civil servants are indifferent to public projects as they are preoccupied with their own private projects. Concepts like target, schedule and project management, which are so sacred to the private sector, are not applicable to them! No minister or civil servant is ever punished for causing time and cost over-runs of projects and thus wasting public money. Ideally, the state government, when it failed to achieve the toilet target, should have analyzed which public servants were responsible for that and penalized them. Next, the government should have identified where they went wrong. If the surveys were wrong, they should have ordered fresh surveys. If the processes were wrong they should have changed the processes. If the scheme needed to be modified in any manner they should have modified it. If they failed because people were not satisfied with their offers they should have made them satisfactory. All these might have taken some time, but at least the state government would not have been seen as having used deceit to declare Goa ODF.

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