The Rural Sanitation program involving construction of toilets will always be a distant dream for a vast majority of the people living in rural India. While there is no doubt building toilets is not as simple as building them, it’s also building a behavioral change. Not just on the part of the people using these religiously but also the people responsible for making these policies, executing these programs need to do their work religiously after all the toilets are no less important than the religious institutions.
Efforts to improve the Rural Sanitation have been going on for at least the last 3 decades. Many sanitation programs were launched during these periods which covered more or less similar activities with slight changes in their approach. As per the WHO Report “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update”, the number of people practicing open defecation is declining steadily in Asia. India, however, continues to be the country with the highest number of people (60.09 per cent) practicing open defecation in the world which is indeed a matter of concern.”
The one consistent reason why India performs so poorly in rural sanitation is not because of a lack of intent or the lack of money, but primarily because of lack of accountability and transparency. The latest CAG audit report for the period of 2009 through 2014 highlights these very reasons, yet again.
The main findings of the audit report:
- Nearly 10,000 crores were spent on the rural sanitation program by the central government in the last 5 years. But the spending was marked with large scale diversions, wastage’s and irregularities.
- More than 30 percent of individual household latrines were defunct/non-functional for reasons like poor quality of construction, incomplete structure, non-maintenance etc.
- Building sanitation is more than just building toilets. It’s also about building behavioral changes
- Mere deployment of resources will not have any signification impact
- Shortfall in expenditure on the scheme against the available funds
- Unrealistic targets, poor construction material, incomplete constructions etc
Shortfall in achievements:
The Total Sanitation Campaign aims to accelerate sanitation coverage in rural India by providing access to toilets in all the below categories, but due to unrealistic targets (without referencing the funds that might be actually available) set by the state governments, all of them suffered a major shortfall.
- Individual household latrines (IHHL) – 47.85% shortfall
- Community Sanitary Complex – 71.43% shortfall
- Toilets in schools – 47.52% shortfall
- Anganwadis – 55.55% shortfall
- Solid and liquid waste management – NA
As per Census 2011 (February 2011), 514.64 lakh rural households had toilet facility within the premises, however, as per records in the Ministry, 768.07 lakh toilets were constructed up to February 2011 in rural households under the TSC/NBA scheme. It was noted that there were wide variations in the IHHL figures in various States and in the following 16 States the Ministry had reported achievement on higher side in comparison to Census 2011 figures:
Building toilets is not simply constructing the toilets, it’s also about making sure they are constructed with good quality material and with a simple design that’s easy to maintenance. As per a 2012 survey, out of the total 7.05 crore toilets in individual households, nearly 20.54% toilets i.e. 1.45 crores were found to be defunct.
The reasons for such high degree of defunct toilets were
- poor quality of construction
- incomplete structure
- In 3 states, financial irregularities like construction of toilets in excess of requirement
- Excess allocation of incentive
- Diversion of funds
- In 13 districts of 7 states, various financial irregularities like incurring expenditure without approval, diversion of funds, etc. amounting to 7.81 crores
- Total funds available for the scheme during 2009-14 was 13494.63 crores of which Rs 10157.93 crores was spent, the remaining 24.73 percent of the total funds available.
- During audit in States, various other deficiencies like procurement of hardware without demand, part payment of incentive, non‐ disbursement of incentive, etc. were also noticed.
- The Community Sanitary Complex were constructed with obtaining the approvals, without realization of community contribution, left incomplete or constructed in violation of scheme guidelines.
- The toilets in various schools were constructed without following model design
- Baby friendly toilets were not constructed in many states
- In some states anganwadi’s operating out of private buildings were not targeted for construction of toilets under the scheme
- Construction of school toilets was not as per requirement of strength of students attending the school