Is India really open defecation free?

Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, are amazed to hear that India has achieved status of Open Defecation Free country as declared by our honorable Prime Minister at Ahmedabad on 02 Oct 2019 while paying homage to the Father of Nation, Shri. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It would indeed be a matter of achievement for Indians especially fromrural India, and a step forward in alleviating the poverty ridden life of villagers. The data so presented with regard to construction of 11 crore toilets relieving 60 crore people in 60 months does speak about effective governance, but it lacks on ground audit to support the claim. A couple of month ago, the Government of J&K also declared similar status for our state without any public or on ground audit to convince the people who find no such development on ground. It is really shocking to hear big mind boggling declarations made by prominent authorities of the nation merely to gain political mileage at the cost of poor innocent people of India.
To make it more factual, let us take up the example of three prominent and large colonies of Jammu, the summer capital of the state, namely Greater Kailash, Chhani Himmat and Sainik Colony where a large number of outsiders working as labors reside in Juggis and have no such facility created in the form of Community toilets or Sulabh Complex for their use so that they are not compelled to defecate in open decimating the claim of our leaders in power. These migrant workers basically hail from MP, UP and Orissa who are honored citizens of India and may also be included in that 60 crore people who have been provided with toilets out of 11 crores built at public cost. The number of these workers runs in thousands who does not have access to any government facility like schooling, rationing, medical services or any other scheme like ODF. It therefore implies that the claim of the state and Union Governments apparently requires honest audit to arrive at correct figure and plug the pilferage that prime facie exist in the system. We are pained to accept that a large number of workers across the state of Jammu and Kashmir and may be so for entire India live life at their own devoid of rightful public utilities. The issue needs to be dealt with multipronged approach involving not only logistical aspect but also issues arising out of frequent migration of these workers and tribes of Jammu and Kashmir. Such tall claims without supporting ground reality does not stand the test of public audit and affect the credibility of the governance.
We do realize that issue needs wholehearted support of the people not only in preach but also in practice to lead the affected group of people to accept scientific and ecofriendly way of disposal in more clean and hygienic manner. We cannot ignore the contribution of Dr. BindeshwarPathak of Sulabh International who pioneered Social Reform Movement and brought noticeable change in the behavior of affected people by providing facility at affordable price. It may therefore be considered by government of India to seek extended public participation through social activists and NGOs to achieve cent percent ODF status that will speak for it unlike other declarations.
It therefore stands amply clear that the data presented in this regard at various forums needs professional scrutiny to establish the actual status in the larger interest of the public. We also feel that the groups of migrating people involved in infrastructure development of the country as highlighted earlier deserve empathetic approach and may not be ignored just to prove the point. Our esteemed Father of Nation, foundly remembered as Mahatma Gandhi established beyond doubt that Truth always Prevails and it shall be incumbent on us to pay befitting homage to this saint of the century by following his footsteps in real terms. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
(The author is WgCdr (Retd)