The Punjab is fast marching towards acquiring the unique status of the first ‘ODF’ (Open Defection Free) state in the country with the 75 per cent of the rural population having access to the Public Toilets. Toilets to the remaining 25 per cent of rural folks would be constructed on mission mode in stipulated time frame by 2017 by October 2017.It was disclosed by Mr. Surjit Singh Rakhra, Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation, Punjab during meeting with Mrs. Vijay Laxmi Joshi, Secretary to Government of India, Department of Water Supply and Sanitation. She was in Punjab to review the Swachh Bharat Mission.Rakhra said that for this purpose the Government of Punjab has approved ‘Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project’ (PRWSSIP). He said this project would support the construction of 625000 Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) in the rural areas.
He said that the estimated unit cost of a Household Latrine would be Rs. 15,000 and the state government would finance Rs 6000 for each IHHL whereas remaining amount is expected from the GoI.Mrs. Vijay Laxmi Joshi lauded the efforts of the Punjab Government in realising the dream of Swachh Bharat Mission in its true spirits. She assured the state government that there would be no shortage of funds for Swachh Bharat Mission and the GoI would examine the Punjab’s case for additional funds positively.Earlier reviewing the activities under Swachh Bharat Mission in Punjab Mrs. Vijay Laxmi Joshi had video conferencing session with all the Deputy Commissioners. She also described the guiding principles of the Swachh Bharat Mission. She said that the SBM never ‘was’ never ‘is’ and ‘would’ never be a toilet construction exercise. She said that the intent SBM from day one is the behaviour change of the masses with regard to their health and sanitation issues. She said that SBM should not be confused as engineering exercise of construction of toilets but it is social movement to change the mindset of the people by mobilizing the community towards adopting healthy sanitation practices. She was amused to know that the per cent of usage of toilets among the women in Punjab is higher than the men.Mr. Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary, Water Supply and Sanitation, Punjab said that the main focus of the State Government while making the toilets for the rural folks has been to generating awareness among them about the ill effects of the open defection and persuade them to use the toilets. He said that to roll out the Action Plan of Swachh Bharat Mission the State Government has constituted a State Sanitation Cell headed by Director Sanitation whereas in all the 22 Districts, District Level Sanitation Cells have been formed under the chairmanship of Executive Engineers. He said that Block Sanitation teams have been formed in 146 Blocks comprising of three members. The mandate of all these Cells and Teams is to monitor that the action plan of Swachch Bharat Mission is being implemented at the grass root level.
He highlighted in nutshell the present Status of Sanitation in Punjab. He said that Punjab has made noteworthy progress in increasing rural household toilet coverage. He pointed out that in 2001, Punjab had 2.7 million rural household of which 1.1 million (41 percent) reported access to toilets. By 2011 the number of rural household increased to 3.3 million and of this 2.3 million (70 percent) reported access to toilets.Mr. Suresh Kumar also put up before Mrs. Vijay Laxmi various issue hampering the state to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission effectively. He made a point that present guidelines of NRDWP do not allow preferential allocation for habitations of difficult areas i.e. Kandi, Border & Water logged area. It was urged that weightage for this area should be allowed in the financing pattern.Prominent among others who were present in the meeting included Mr. Nipun Vinayak, Director Sanitation (Deputy Secretary), Government of India, Mr. Ajoy Sharma, Head of Department, Water Supply and Sanitation, Punjab, all Chief Engineers, SEs, XENs.