Sahibganj, a picturesque district in Jharkhand skirted by the Rajmahal Hills, is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious programme to stop the disposal of human waste into the river Ganga will be the first to see the light of day. The Centre has identified 77 villages in Sahibganj where toilets with waste disposal facilities would be constructed by the end of 2015-16.
Sahibganj, the only district in Jharkhand which has the Ganga flowing through it, will feature not only a confluence of the Prime Minister's pet campaigns, Clean India and Clean Ganga, but also the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s efforts to reach out to an estimated 60 million people who rely directly on the river for their livelihoods, including boatmen and fishing communities. These are communities predominantly from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes (OBC) that do not traditionally vote for the BJP in these regions.
A part of the Santhal Parganas, Sahibganj, with nearly a third of its 1.15 million people being tribals and Dalits and a significant OBC population, is also important as a melting pot of people from West Bengal, Bihar and Bangladesh. It borders Bihar's Katihar and Bhagalpur districts, West Bengal's Malda and Murshidabad are barely 90 km from the Farakka barrage.
For starters, the entire district has been mapped to know whether a household has a toilet or not. "The mapping would help the government identify which household has a toilet and in what condition," said a senior official. The central government plans to construct toilets with proper waste disposal facilities in 600 villages situated along the banks of Ganga starting from Uttarakhand to West Bengal. All 600 villages are expected to get a toilet by the end of 2019.
Officials said to enable beneficiaries to avail government funds quickly, the Centre is planning to rely on a sophisticated system wherein the beneficiaries would only have to upload the picture of the toilet constructed by him through whatever means, and the government would send a team to verify it.
As soon as the verification is done, the Centre would release the fund from its account to the beneficiary. A total allocation of Rs 12,000 has been granted for each toilet unit, irrespective of the total cost of structure. "We are very clear on this, the villages along Ganga are our priority as that would help clean the river," said a senior official.
Other cities part of the project are Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Patna, Mathura, Gangasagar and Haridwar. At the BJP national executive meet in Bengaluru in April, both Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had appealed to party workers to work for Clean Ganga and Clean India campaigns. According to a leader, the party's ongoing 'mahasampark' or contact programme to consolidate the gains of its membership drive, has reached out to communities living on the banks of the Ganga.