By Utpal Borpujari
The government’s March 31, 2012 deadline to have 100 per cent toilet coverage of rural India could be off the target by as much as over 200 years, thanks to the way districts represented by top politicians of the ruling UPA are coping up.
While the districts represented by A K Antony, Farooq Abdullah, Virbhadra Singh, A Raja and Vayalar Ravi will achieve the target this year itself, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s home district Jammu will be able to receive total toilet coverage only in 2266, going by the present rate of growth in population coverage.
The findings are the result of a study of the government’s Total Sanitation Programme (TSP) data by UK based NGO WaterAid’s India office, covering districts represented by Union Cabinet Ministers (in case of Lok Sabha members, districts encompassing their constituencies).
The study has found that only nine out of 33 Cabinet ministers’ constituency districts will meet the 2012 target, while those of six – Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Mines Minister B K Handique, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Labour Minister Mallikarjuna Khagde and Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, apart from Azad – will meet the target only in 2030 or after that.
Dr Singh’s political home district Kamrup in Assam will meet the target by 2030, while Handique’s Jorhat will achieve the same in 2031, Moily’s Kolar (the study considered the whole of original Kolar district, of which his constituency district Chikkballapur has been carved out) by 2034, Kharge’s Gulbarga in 2055 and Sahay’s Ranchi in 2035.
Incidentally, last year, the first such study had found that the then Railway Minister’s constituency district Chapra in Bihar to be the worst off, with the projection showing that it would meet the TSP target only by 2058.
The projections in the study have been made on basis of present toilet coverage in the districts and the current annual growth rate of construction.
The amusing fact is that Rural Development Minister C P Joshi, who oversees the TSP, will see his own Bhilwara district meeting the target only in 2023.
The study also covered Sonia Gandhi’s Sultanpur, Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi and L K Advani’s Gandhinagar districts, which it said would meet their targets by 2012, 2015 and 2017 respectively.
According to the study, if the government is to achieve 100 per cent toilet coverage by the announced date, the country would have to construct 48 toilets a minute non-stop from now onwards.
The relevance of the study, said WaterAid, came from the fact that 66.5 crore Indians, about half of the country’s population and more than double the population of the United States, still are forced to defecate in the open.