Residents prefer open defecation citing faulty construction, but the fact remains that they only supervised the toilet work using the money received in their bank accounts under the Swachh Bharat Mission
Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh: “The gram pradhan [village head] got our toilet built three years ago, but we do not use it. The construction is not good,” averred Neelam Devi (36), a resident of Natpurwa village in Sidhauli block of Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district. There are 12 members in her family, but everyone defecates in the open. “Poor quality bricks,” they reasoned.
Vilasha Devi (65), a resident of Garha village in Sidhauli block, said her family used to use the toilet in the initial one-year period. “After that, we stopped because the toilet was not well constructed. There are nine people in our family, now everyone goes out for defecation. When guests come to our place, they also defecate in the open,” she said.
According to the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS), Round 3, 2019-20, 98.6% villages in the country reported that no visible faecal matter was found in the areas that were used for open defecation in the past. According to state wise data, 98.8% villages were declared open defecation-free (ODF). It said that 95.8% of the households in Uttar Pradesh had access to toilets, whereas 94.4% individuals used the toilets accessible to them. The percentages of houses with functional and hygienic toilets were 96.1 and 98.1, respectively.
Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Grameen Phase-II, 6,14,658 toilets have been constructed across 2,310 villages in Sitapur. However, the toilet use is not prevalent as expected in some villages of the district due to several reasons, despite the government efforts to create awareness on toilet use through various mediums.
“About five years ago, gram pradhan told me about the SBM. We applied and received Rs 12,000 from the government for constructing a toilet. However, I had to spend an extra Rs 3,000 from my pocket to make a quality construction. But it was a wise decision because my entire family still uses the toilet. Our soak pit is not full yet,” said Narendra Kumar (35), a beneficiary from Basaideeh in Kasmanda block of the district.
Piyush Kumar* of Ramshala in Machhrehta block of the district said there was no water facility in the toilet. So, the family does not use it. "Construction is so bad that we fear bricks will fall on us while using the toilet." Sunitha*(50) of Ramshala said five people in her village built her family’s toilet about five years ago. “Cement was used only on half the toilet, the other half was made of mortar and sand. Our toilet shakes, it is not structurally solid. So we are afraid of using it,” she said.
“There is no water in it either. If we used the toilet, its soak pit would fill up and we would have to spend money to get it cleaned. I do not want that to happen. There is no facility for cleaning in the village. No one even made us aware about using the toilet,” she exclaimed.
Shravan Kumar (38), who cleans sewers in Lucknow, said there were no sewer lines in villages, so people make septic tanks or soak pits in their homes. Soak pit does not require cleaning for 8 to 10 years. Swamp gets formed in it and great care has to be taken while cleaning it.
Nandram Yadav, the pradhan of Jaipalpur gram panchayat in Sidhauli block, told 101Reporters on phone that 40% of the 350 toilets built under SBM in 2014 in his panchayat have fallen into disrepair. "Women and youth try to use the functional toilets of their relatives in the neighbourhood, while elderly men defecate in the open mostly," he said. Asked about the awareness programmes to curb open defecation, Yadav said the village authorities have created awareness among the residents about the use of toilets.
Sandeep Kumar, Block Development Officer, Sidhauli, told 101Reporters on phone that the money to construct toilets is sent to the beneficiary's account through direct benefit transfer in two instalments. “The beneficiaries get their toilets constructed themselves. We create awareness among villagers about the disadvantages of open defecation. We are constantly trying to ensure that people do not defecate in the open."
“I do not have a toilet, no one has given me one despite applying. I go out to defecate, but face many issues. If I had one, I would not have to go out,” said Bhagauti Devi (65), who lives alone in Garha village.
*Names changed to protect identity
Edited by Rekha Pulinnoli
Cover Photo - Neelam Devi of Natpurwa village standing outside the toilet (Photo - Indal Kashyap, 101Reporters)
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