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"Apathy" towards open defecation in newly developed areas of Gujarat's state capital

By Kevin Antao*
Barely seven kilometres from Gujarat’s seat of power, the new Sachivalaya complex, open defecation is a reality. A newly developed area fast becoming part of the state capital, Sargasan, and part of the Gandhinagar urban development area, has proved to be a mockery of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM), one of whose major thrusts has to free India of this despicable practice.
I have been trying my level best, asking the local newspapers of Gandhinagar to expose this massive open defecation by construction workers employed at many of the sites in Sargasan and around.
I have been wanting local government authorities, especially those who are involved in planning and development of the state capital beyond its present boundaries, to at least provide mobile toilets to these sites. But all in vain.
Clearly, SBM is a nation-wide campaign for the period 2014 to 2019 that aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India's cities, towns and rural areas. But it does not seem to have touched this newly-developing area, situated behind two prestigious institutes of national importance, Infocity and Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communications Technology (DAIICT).
No doubt, the objectives of SBM, including eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use, are good.
Officially launched on October 2, 2014 at Rajghat, New Delhi, by the Prime Minister as one of India’s largest cleanliness drives, its implementation in a state which he ruled for more than 13 years is tardy, thanks largely to bureaucratic apathy.
The Prime Minister’s dream project doesn’t exist in Sargasan and the surrounding areas, where massive construction activities of many a high rise building is on in full swing. At one such site, which I visited in the wee hours, around 60 migrant workers are employed and are staying in make shift tents. However, they have not been provided any toilet facilities.
Daily one can see these workers – men, women and children – right from sunrise to around 8 am and, even after dinner, walking with their water bottles to defecate in the open spaces, next to the bushes in the neighbourhood.
The situation is particularly embarrassing for those who have made this area their permanent place of living in the newly-built tenements and flats. Some health conscious men and women, young and old, can be seen going for morning walk along these roads next to the open fields with a handkerchief or a face towel on their nose, because they are unable to tolerate the stink they have to inhale due to open defecation.
If local media has failed to report this menace in spite of bringing it to their notice, builders are busy building apartments and bungalows, earning huge profits. They appear to have lost their humanity. Why can’t they provide temporary toilets at construction sites tp these workers, whereby they can carry out on their morning victuals with a certain amount of dignity?
Even the Gandhinagar Urban Development Authority (GUDA), whose offices are situated in the midst of Gandhinagar town, appears to be indifferent. It has many a mobile toilet. Why can’t GUDA officials, otherwise very active in helping out builders in developing Gandhinagar horizontally, supply such toilets to these work sites? After all, people purchase flats or bungalows in Sargasan after paying a good amount as taxes to GUDA.
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*Senior Gandhinagar-based photo journalist. All pix by the author

Comments

Urvashi Devi said…
I can imagine . A lot of these labourers are from our district ; they are paid v well ; but the developers are not making facilities  🤔😜.
Only the other day on my way from Baria  to the airport ; there was a toilet ; near the Jugi jophdis  . A portable system . They should have those ; but water ? Cleaning ?
I remember in my school days when we went to Delhi for the Republic day parade ; in Delhi cantt; where there were 1000s of cadets ; they dug pits in a row ; covered by canvas ; they could do something like that for the labourers  ?

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