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  • Open defecation soon to be a punishable offense

    April 16, 2016

    In a move to further strengthen the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan, the Centre on Friday sent a letter to all the state governments in which they proposed that open defecation should be made into a punishable offense and a heavy spot fine must be imposed on the violators. The Centre has proposed the state governments to make relevant changes in the bylaws to accommodate this action and asked them to ensure its implementation.

    The Urban Development Minister sent a communication to all States on March 17, underlining that the campaign was time-bound. The Centre has set a target for imposing a penalty beginning April 31, 2016 in at least one ward in a city and covering all cities by September 30, 2018. The mission target is for a cleaner and much safer country in terms of sanitation by 2019. It has suggested that a spot fine/penalty or cleaning charges be levied from citizens who defecate in the open in wards which have been declared free from open defecation.

    Open defecation has been a menace in India for decades. Mahatma Gandhi saw a bright future for India in terms of sanitation and the Centre, even going on to the extent of saying that proper sanitation is much more important than independence. By taking this move the Centre has bolstered its much praised Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan, which was originally planned to be a toilet construction drive with the aim of eliminating open defecation in the country.

    With nearly 130 million households in India lacking proper sanitation facilities, it is not a surprise that the government has taken this step. Now let’s take a look at an astonishing figure. The country with 17% of the world's population has 60% of all people in the world lacking sanitation facilities and knowledge. Many backward thought processes are also to be blamed for this kind of a system in place. Many people, notably in the Hindu-dominated Gangetic plains, today still show a preference for going in the open—even if they have latrines at home.

    Addressing a program at Mangalore last month, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said that several people had told him that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan should not be limited to campaigns and there must be strict fines to make the drive more effective. “In Singapore, I’ve observed how people maintain cleanliness fearing hefty fines imposed on violators. Such rules are required in India,” he said.

    OUR TAKE

    The sanitation scenario in India has been grim for decades. Proper allocation of the budget to this sector of the country has not been provided and moreover the budget that does get allocated does not get utilized the way it was intended to. Back in the Congress days, Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry, which implements government's ambitious program to eradicate the menace of open defecation, had got an allocation of Rs 15,260 crore in the interim budget presented by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram. The Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan has certainly took the case one step forward and looks to be on track in tackling the problem of improper sanitation in the country. The nation needs stricter laws regarding the same and such fines and punishments also act as moral shame for the culprits, making sure that the wrong deed is not repeated ever again.


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