Several ignored aspects belie J&K Govt’s claim about achieving 100% ODF status

No focus on nomadic population, slum dwellers
Sustaining self-declared position a challenging task

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Sept 19: Several ignored aspects have belied the claim of State Government about Jammu and Kashmir achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status under Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin scheme of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Moreover, sustaining self-declared position will be a challenging task for the Government as majority of the blocks in the State are lacking Block Development Officers, who otherwise have a key role to play in this regard.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that following launch of Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin on October 2, 2014, the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation sought details from all the States about the number of Individual Household Toilets and Community Sanitary Complexes required to be constructed to get rid of the menace of open defecation.
Like other States of the country, Jammu and Kashmir also fixed the targets under the Mission for achieving the Open Defecation Free status and furnished the same to the Union Minister for funding.
Few days back, Governor Satya Pal Malik declared J&K as Open Defecation Free (ODF) on the basis of information furnished to him by the authorities concerned and stated that due to sustained efforts of all stakeholders J&K has achieved 100% toilet coverage and has become ODF one year in advance. “All the 22 districts in the State are self-declared ODF as per Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin guidelines”, the Governor said in his speech in a function relating to “Swachhata Hi Seva Programme.
He observed that apart from constructing 1.1 million Individual Household Toilets and 1350 Community Sanitary Complexes in the State, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has played a vital role in bringing about behavioural change in the people.
However, complete ignorance of several vital aspects by the authorities concerned has belied the claims of the Government about achieving ODF status for the State, sources said, adding “slum dwellers in different parts of the State have not been covered under the Swachh Bharat Mission and majority of them are still defecating in open right under the nose of the concerned authorities”.
“People defecating along the railway tracks and in the fields in rural parts of the State is still a common scene and this has also clearly established that J&K has achieved Open Defecation Free status only on the papers”, sources further said, adding “during the drive under the Mission even nomadic population has not been covered and majority of the nomads are still indulging in open defecation”.
They further said, “it seems that Government has declared J&K Open Defecation Free only by constructing the number of Individual Household Toilets and Community Sanitary Complexes projected at the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission by the Union Government instead of looking into all the aspects relating to the menace”.
“No doubt the dashboard of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation shows that J&K has achieved the target projected four years back but the ground situation doesn’t indicate that State has become Open Defecation Free in view of complete ignorance of slum dwellers and nomadic population”, sources said, adding “these aspects have also raised questions vis-a-vis authenticity of the data about Individual Household Toilets and Community Sanitary Complexes projected before the Union Ministry four years back”.
Moreover, no serious attention has so far been paid towards sustaining of self-declared position. “It is yet not clear as to which authority will ensure check on open defecation and what action would be taken against those resorting to the same”, sources further said.
“Block Development Officers (BDOs) are required to play crucial role in sustaining of self-declared position but more than 200 blocks in Jammu and Kashmir don’t have full time BDOs and in such a situation what post-ODF steps would be taken remains a million dollar question”, they said.
It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is repeatedly laying thrust on sustaining of ODF status by the respective States by initiating necessary steps so that health and hygiene is ensured at all the levels and whopping funds utilized in construction of Individual Household Toilets and Community Sanitary Complexes don’t go waste.


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