Open defecation is a big menace in India. According to joint data statistics compiled by the WHO and the UNICEF, 597 million people practice open defecation in this country. In recent years, this problem has caught the central government’s attention and there has been an instrumental change in the policy implementation as well. The central government is working in tune with various state governments to implement the ambitious Swacch Bharat Mission on a massive scale. A part of this drive includes eradication of open defecation in the country.
Punjab Government has been championing this cause since long and various efforts by the government have brought the state on the brink of success. The state is fast marching towards acquiring the unique status of the first ‘Open Defecation Free’ state in India. At present, 75% of the state’s rural population has access to public toilets. The state government is aiming to cover the remaining 25% population by October 2017 through the construction of toilets.
The state has even approved ‘Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project’ (PRWSSIP). Under this, 6,25,000 Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) will be constructed in the rural areas. Each unit will cost Rs. 15,000 and the cost incurred per unit will be financed jointly by the state and central government.
Last week, Mrs. Vijay Laxmi Joshi, Secretary to the GoI, Department of Water Supply and Sanitation was in Punjab to review the state’s Swacch Bharat initiatives. While reviewing them, she praised the Punjab Government’s role in realizing the dream of Swachh Bharat Mission. Also, she assured the state with adequate fund allocation for the same. Already, the state has received Rs. 41.40 Crores during 2014-15 to spearhead the initiative. Till 2nd October 2019, the centre has allotted Rs. 381.18 Crores to the state under this scheme.
The Government of Punjab agrees that Swacch Bharat is a movement for the behavioural change of the masses with regard to their health and sanitation issues. Constructing toilets can bring the change in the mindset of communities and inspire them to follow healthy sanitation practices.
The state is using the same approach to generate awareness among rural masses about ill effects of defecating in open. This will inspire them to practice hygiene and encourage them to use the toilets.
Punjab’s action plan has been instrumental in promoting sanitation as a carrier of Swacch Bharat Mission. The state government has constituted a State Sanitation Cell headed by Director Sanitation. District Level Sanitation Cells within all 22 districts have been formed under the chairmanship of Executive Engineers to execute the mission within the state. Even Block Sanitation teams have been formed in 146 Blocks to monitor that the action plan is being implemented at the grass root level.
With all these developments, the day is not far when we will proudly address Punjab a clean and ‘open defecation free’ state in India.