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Rural West Bengal: Open defecation rampant, border area programme 'not implemented'

Counterview Desk 

Alleging "lack of access to sanitation and omission of duty of government officers" in rural North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, in a letter to the National Human rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson, Kirity Roy, secretary Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), has said that this forces vulnerable sections of the society resorting to open defecation, affecting cleanliness.
Referring to the situation in Gobra village, Roy, who is also national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), said, a significant section of the residents of the village have time and again applied for funds to construct modern latrines "but for some reason the applications have not been processed."

Text:

I would like to draw your kind attention to the lack of sanitation facilities in the village of Gobra (District: North 24 Parganas, Block: Swarupnagar, Gram Panchayat: Gobindapur). Despite being close to the international border with Bangladesh, the BADP (Border Area Development Programme) initiatives have not been implemented in their true spirit.
The village faces a lack of access to modern public amenities and civic facilities. The lack of access to sanitation facilities at the household and community levels has been taken up with the local administration in the recent past but no suitable action has been taken.
Most of the households from vulnerable sections of the society resort to open defecation which affects the cleanliness of the village roads and the common and or fallow lands around the village. The public health concerns due to such activities are of grave concern and demand immediate attention.
The government of India and government of West Bengal through programmes named ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ and ‘Nirmal Bangla’ have been advocating for open defecation-free villages. There have been considerable efforts from the central and state governments to spread awareness of hygienic practices and offer scientific solid waste disposal mechanisms to rural areas.
The financial assistance to households to construct modern latrines has also been a significant step towards ensuring access to such facilities for vulnerable rural households. A significant section of the residents of Gobra village have time and again applied for such funds but for some reason the applications have not been processed.
The computer-generated acknowledgement receipts of some of the applications have been attached herewith. The block administration has also expressed helplessness stating that they have not received any directions from the concerned government department or ministry to transfer the financial aid to the bank accounts of the applicants.
We would urge your department to enquire into the matter and proactively reach out to the applicants to ensure that they receive the necessary assistance to construct modern latrines at the household level. It is broadcasted message from the State Government of West Bengal that, “The mission aims at constructing latrines in households, especially in the uncovered households in the rural areas to ensure zero defecation in the open.”
The Government of India also declared the same programme by its Ministry of Jalshakti. An adequate number of modern toilets should also be constructed at the community level. The Government officials to be sensitized thoroughly; and the erring officials to be booked duly on Swachh Bharat Mission.
Thanking you, in anticipation of a favourable response from your end.

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