Skip to main content

Where will the shit go? Ask Gujarat villagers owning "fake" toilets built without drainage under Swacch Bharat Mission

Unused toilet block in Sagtala village without drainage
By Pankti Jog*
What will be your reaction, if one fine morning you get to know that the toilet in your house is listed to be built with the support of government subsidy, that too under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category? What one might think as a silly joke is a reality for the residents of Dhangadhra city in Surendranagar district of Gujarat.
One of the residents and Right to Information (RTI) activists, Saiyyad Imtiyaz, was shocked when he saw that the list of beneficiaries of the toilet subsidy scheme under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan has three names from his family. Imtiyaz's family has been using toilets for years. These were built with his money. Elected in Dhangadhra municipality, he has been actively filing RTI and using the information he receives to improve the local governance system.
When he went a little deeper, he was further shocked to see that the entire scheme had been rotting with corruption, contracting and fake beneficiaries. “I do not know from where to start, but Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan badly needs cleansing”, he told RTI helpline run by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP).
Over the last five months, the RTI helpline has received more than 65 queries wherein callers have reported following types of issues:
  • Where will the shit go? 
Citizens genuinely need toilet and applied for the same. Initially, they were happy to see that their names were listed as proposed beneficiaries. But soon they learned that they must give account numbers and other details, including a pre-signed cheque, as part of the procedure for applying.
After the procedure is over, toilets are built by contractors with no soak pit, no drainage line. Four walls, the pan and roof, that's all.
A Panchamahals resident told RTI helpline: “There is no pit under the pan, where will the shit go? We could have used it for storing grass, but the quality is so poor, that in three months the cement is falling off." When queried, Sarpanch Gordhanbhai told me, “Contracts are given to politically connected persons and are decided at the higher level. In my village construction material was dumped in the front of the house of an influental political worker. Local contractors operated from there.”
The situation, as reported on RTI hlpline, is not different elsewhere. In Sagtala village of Devgadh Baria block of Dahod district, a whole block of toilet has been built under Swachh Bharat Mission, but the drainage line is missing. The caller wondered, "How can one build a toilet without either having soak pit or a drainage line? This toilet unit has been constructed under the rural job guarantee scheme, MGNREGA. Total waste of money, yet the government takes pride of having such structures built all over."
  • Ghost/fake beneficiaries 
Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan is one of the favourite programmes of the government and is monitored by the Prime Minister's office, as also at the highest level in the state capital. In order to complete the targets, the authorities must show a list of beneficiaries. The gram sabha has to identify households without toilets. Forms have to be filled and submitted along with documents. A person can build her or his toilet, and partial support is given by government. However, according to information received by us, more than 40% of toilets are either fake (they are not built at all) or are old ones listed for getting government subsidy.
“The amount government offers is so little that no one actually is motivated to build toilets. There are complications about arrangement of drainage lines also. Water availability is another big issue. However, we have to show some targets completed every three months”, revealed a block official on condition of anonymity.
  • Payments delayed 
Another type of issue that is reported on the RTI helpline is that of delay in payments after making a toilet. At many places, beneficiary households, who have made their toilets themselves, are wait for payments with no end in sight. Payments are often received through middlemen, in cash, that too after deducting Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability
Block offices keep getting complains of irregularities in the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan toilet scheme. But hardly any action is taken. Dozens of RTIs have been filed to get details of the scheme, procedure for selection of beneficiaries and the list. Despite appeals, no information is furnished.
When asked why is information not given, an RTI volunteer revealed, the Public Information Officers of Banaskantha, Mehsana and Gandhinagar districts have been giving strange replies: “Once list is given complaints will start”, or “The list is so long that it will take some time to compile”, or "How can I given someone else's name to third party unless I ask him?"
Toilets under construction in a Mehsana village
"As per section 4(1)b of the RTI Act, and its manual numbers 11, 12, and 13, all the details of budgets, expenses and list of beneficiaries must to be disclosed at the local level on notice board, or on hoardings,” says Harinesh Pandya, a senior RTI activist. “There is a huge nexus between politicians and officials, and they keep shifting responsibility and blame each other. The government should ensure that the list is put on the website. I hope the Information Commission takes suo motu cognizance and asks government to do so,” he adds.
Amidst all the dark clouds, there is a silver lining: Common citizens like Saiyyad Imtiyaz, Gordhanbhai and others have not given up, despite the fact that they were offered money and were pressurized. They have filed RTIs, made complaints, sought payment sheets and engineer inspection certificates to dig out all the shit that is hiding behind the implementation of Swacchh Bharat Abhiyaan.
---
*With Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

'Enough evidence' in Indian tradition to support legal basis for same-sex marriage

By Iyce Malhotra, Joseph Mathai, Sandeep Chachra*  The ongoing hearing in the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage provides space for much-needed conversations on issues that have hitherto remained “invisible” or engaged with patriarchal locker room humour. We must recognize that people with diverse sexualities and complex gender identities have faced discrimination, stigma and decades of oppression. Their issues have mainly remained buried in dominant social discourse, and many view them with deep insecurities.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Victim of communal violence, Christians in Manipur want Church leadership to speak up

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  The first eleven days of May 2023 have, in many ways, been a defining period of Indian history! Plenty has happened in a rapid-fire stream of events. Ironically, each one of them are indicators of how crimes and the criminalisation of society has become the ‘new norm’; these include, the May Day rallies with a focus on the four labour codes which are patently against the rights of workers; the U S Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its Annual Report on 1 May stating that conditions for religious freedom in India “continued to worsen in 2022”; the continued protest by the Indian women wrestlers at Jantar Mantar for the expulsion of the chief of the Indian Wrestlers Federation on very serious allegations; the Elections in Karnataka on 10 May (with communalism and corruption as the mainstay); the release of the fake, derogative and insensitive film ‘The Kerala Story’; the release of World Free Press Index on 3 May which places India

Delhi HC rules in favour of retired Air Force officer 'overcharged' for Covid treatment

By Rosamma Thomas*  In a decision of May 22, 2023, the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of petitioner Group Captain Suresh Khanna who was under treatment at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, between April 28 and May 5, 2021, for a period of eight days, for Covid-19 pneumonia. The petitioner had to pay Rs 3,55,286 as treatment costs, but the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) only reimbursed him for Rs 1,83,748, on the basis of government-approved rates. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

India joining US sponsored trade pillar to hurt Indian farmers, 'promote' GM seeds, food

Counterview Desk  As many as 32 civil society organisations (CSOs), in a letter to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and India joining the trade pillar, have said that its provisions will allow the US to ensure a more favourable regulatory regime “for enhancing its exports of genetically modified (GM) seeds and GM food”, underlining, it will “significantly hurt the livelihoods of Indian farmers.”

Polygamy in India "down" in 45 yrs: Muslims' from 5.7 to 2.55%, Hindus' 5.8 to 1.77%, "common" in SCs, STs

By Rajiv Shah Amidst All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) justifying polygamy, saying it “meets social and moral needs and the provision for it stems from concern and sympathy for women”, facts suggest the the practice is down from 5.7 per cent of Muslim families in 1961 to 2.55 per cent in 2006.

Modi govt 'wholly untrustworthy' on Covid data, censored criticism on pandemic: Lancet

By Rajiv Shah   One of the world’s most prestigious health journals, brought out from England, has sharply criticised the Narendra Modi government for being “wholly untrustworthy on Covid-19 health data”, stating, the “official government figures place deaths at more than 530 000, while WHO excess death estimates for 2020 and 2021 are near 4·7 million.”