The CPI(M) has criticised the Narendra Modi government's policy of building toilets under the Swachh Bharat mission, saying that it does not have a "concrete policy" on waste management.
In an article in party mouthpiece People's Democracy, the Left party has pointed out that the data provided on government websites reveals that only 64 per cent of the 816 municipal sewage treatment plants (STPs) was functional.
Ridiculing the government's drive to build toilets, in a bid to put an end to open defecation, the article says that though much is stated about the construction of toilets, "how this waste is treated is not the concern of the State".
The party has quoted the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which carried out an inventory of the STPs in the country in 2014-15.
Pointing out that there are 816 STPs (in 2014-15), with a total capacity of 23,277 MLD, in 28 states and union territories, the article says, "The total sewage generated by the Indian cities is 62,000 MLD, but only 30 per cent of it is being treated, which means the untreated waste goes back into the human cycle and contaminates the water, which leads to water-borne diseases."
Quoting the CPCB, the Left party has warned that "domestic sewage is the biggest polluter of our water sources".
"Contamination due to leakages in the sewage network is also not uncommon. Shimla happens to be a classic case where untreated waste flowed into the water source at the Ashwini Khad, leading to an epidemic of hepatitis and death of over 20 people and infection of over 2,000," the article says.
Highlighting various cases of recycling of human waste into manure, the Left party has emphasised on syncretic planning and integration of various forms -- both conventional and modern -- to develop the toilets being built under Swachh Bharat.
The article talks about the residents of several villages in the cold desert region of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir still using dry latrines and using the excreta in their farms.
"The soil nutrients we get through food return to the soil and help grow more food. Using water in toilets breaks this cycle as decomposition takes longer and promotes diseases, including superbugs. A new buzzword which is being spread now is that the human waste is the biggest source of fertilisers, but there are no guidelines as to how it should be utilised properly," it says.
Though the Left party has made it clear that it is not opposed to toilets, it has also emphasised on a "well thought-out waste management policy", along with a drive to build these facilities.