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Census exposes states' claim on sanitation drive

Rural development ministry ropes in Bollywood actor Vidya Balan to promote the use of toilets

Sreelatha Menon  |  New Delhi 

Total sanitation, the official term for ending open defecation in the country, is not remotely close to either total or sanitation, show census data.

The figures supplied by state governments on the website of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) run by the Union Ministry for Rural Development have been exposed as false to a rather overwhelming degree. While the TSC data have 68 per cent sanitation for the country as a whole, the census found just 32.7 per cent of the country was so covered. Open defecation was the practice elsewhere.

Wrinkling its nose, the ministry has brought in film star Vidya Balan, of The Dirty Picture fame, to help correct this, in a campaign to re-promote use of toilets. Balan is expected at the unveiling tomorrow of the the ministry's fresh-flush plan. The ministry, which has been spending Rs 1,500 crore annually (increased to Rs 3,010 crore this year), says it is glad the earthy picture has been revealed; in fact, it claims part of the credit for this.

Says a top official: “The states give us cumulative figures of the coverage of the state on the basis of toilets provided from the very beginning. The states do not enquire whether those toilets are being used. However the census sought to find usage of toilets alone. In fact, the questionnaire for the census was provided by us, as we wanted the truth to be known. We insisted that the usage of toilets, rather than availability of a toilet facility, be measured.''

And, the truth is that while Andhra Pradesh, for instance, has claimed sanitation coverage in the TSC to the extent of 77.07 per cent, it had only 34.9 per cent coverage in Census 2011. Gujarat has claimed sanitation coverage on the TSC online at 81.6 per cent; the Census data shows only 34.2 per cent. Jharkhand has only eight per cent coverage in the Census, but claims 42 per cent under the TSC; Sister-state Bihar claims 32 per cent and has only 18 per cent coverage. Even Maharashtra, which Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh said was close to being open defecation-free and claims 71 per cent coverage, has only 44 per cent coverage in the Census.

Says a ministry official: “It is not possible for states to verify if the toilets provided in the past are still being used. Now, the ministry has asked the states to do monitoring sample surveys on their own to ascertain the lag between usage and supply of toilets. It is not easy to sustain behavioural change. People may agree to use toilets, But to make them stick to a new habit when generations have been used to open defecation is a challenge.''

First Published: Thu, May 03 2012. 00:55 IST