Herald: This is embarrassing, and needs to be rectified
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This is embarrassing, and needs to be rectified

05 Sep 2018 05:29am IST
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05 Sep 2018 05:29am IST

This is one ignominious record that Goa could do without, but will have to now live with. As the nation gallops towards the deadline to be open defecation free (ODF), Goa is the State with the lowest ODF coverage according to the Swachh Bharat website. Who, when the target date was set in 2014, would have believed that Goa would be the State with the least coverage of open defecation free status as the deadline loomed near? In a highly literate State, with a small population and a compact area, we are unable to achieve a target that other States have managed quite easily. Goa stands at 5.87 percent of coverage, with not a single village declared totally open defecation free, and just 22 villages and nine gram panchayats in the process of being declared ODF.

Unbelievably, Goa in January this year was at zero percent where ODF is concerned and closest to the State were the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with 0.93 percent villages declared ODF. Today, the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is ranked as the Number 1 State for ODF coverage and Goa has struggled its way up to 5.73 per cent. If the islands in the Bay of Bengal could do it, why couldn’t Goa? The past reasons proffered of terrain being difficult hardly stand, as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands would have a much more difficult terrain to deal with. It obviously is a matter of having no will to get the job done.

Earlier this year, the State had given itself the deadline of attaining ODF status by October 2 this year. Now, faced with the reality that it cannot possibly have all its villages declared ODF by October 2, the State has extended the deadline for itself  to December 19. To meet this new date, the Department of Urban Development has drafted a scheme for supply and installation of bio-digester toilets in the State. With the scheme still in the draft stage, and 70,000 toilets needed, even December 19, 2018, does not appear to be a deadline that the State will be in a position to meet. It has to complete the survey, then get the people to apply for the scheme and then install the bio-digester toilets. A tall task for a State that in the past few months has done precious little towards this.

Just look at the tardy pace of building toilets in the past four years. When the Swachh Bharat Mission had been announced in October 2014, the percentage of household toilets in the State stood at 60.72 percent that almost four years later, has risen to 76.22 percent. (This is the percentage of household toilets, while ODF coverage that the Swacch Bharat mission is looking at is villages that are ODF and the two percentages are not to be confused.) With such a slow pace of growth, there is little to inspire confidence that the State can reach 100 per cent ODF coverage within the next three months. Goa had earlier set itself the target date of December 2017, a deadline set by then Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar.

In this respect, Goa should have been the State to lead by example and have others follow it. That it failed where other larger States succeeded reflects on just how clumsily the administration takes up tasks. This is one challenge that the State has to now take up and meet. Consider this, despite a Central government mandated deadline, the government has been lethargic in taking up the mission ofbuilding toilets, so had it not been for the Swachh Bharat Mission, would Goa have remained without toilets for an even longer period? Development includes ensuring that the people have proper sanitary facilities, and here the government has failed.

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