In Delhi, Swachh focus on public toilets

The Swachh Bharat Mission was supposed to build more than 1.25 lakh new toilets in Delhi homes. So far, the National Capital Territory has only built 458 individual household toilets under that scheme, according to data presented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The twist in the data comes in the category of community or public toilets, where Delhi has actually exceeded its target, building 19,171 such toilets against the target of only 11,138.

“The State [govt.] says that it doesn’t have any demand from the people for individual household toilets. There is simply no space to construct toilets in their homes. Community toilets are more useful in Delhi,” explained a senior MoHUA official, adding that it was up to States to set their own targets. “The purpose is that sanitation access is available, whether in homes or public toilets. Toilet construction is only the process, becoming ODF [open defecation-free] is the goal,” the official added.

The written reply to the Rajya Sabha also showed that while the entire amount of Rs. 5.15 crore allocated to Delhi for community toilets was released by the Centre, only half of the Rs. 50 crore allocated for individual household toilets was released.

Fungible funds

The MoHUA official said that when the SBM-Urban was launched, surveys were done to determine the initial targets, but a shortage of time led to some estimates which now need to be revised according to actual needs on the ground.

“The targets will be revised in accordance with the State need, but the money will remain the same; it’s a fungible amount,” said the official.

In April 2018, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2016-17 audit of the Delhi government showed that not a single toilet had been constructed under the scheme at that time, with more than Rs. 40 crore in funding remaining unused.

The CAG report, tabled in the Delhi Assembly, had then said that the Delhi government “did not give adequate importance to implementation” of the mission.

In February 2018,
The Hindu
had also reported that several Delhi municipal corporations had low utilisation rates for Swachh Bharat funds partly due to a cash crunch, meaning that they could not match the Central funds with their own.

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