The Punjab government has said that 75% of rural population has access to public toilets in the state and it is moving ahead towards acquiring the “first open defecation-free state status in the country”.
“Punjab is fast marching towards acquiring the unique status of the first open defecation-free state in the country with the 75 per cent of the rural population having access to public toilets,” state Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation Surjit Singh Rakhra said at Chandigarh. “Toilets to remaining 25 per cent of rural folks will be constructed on mission mode in stipulated time frame by October, 2017,” Rakhra said.
The Minister held a meeting with Vijay Laxmi Joshi, Secretary of Department of Water Supply and Sanitation who was here to review the ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission. Rakhra said for this purpose, the state government has approved ‘Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project’ (PRWSSIP). He said this project will support the construction of 6,25,000 individual household latrines (IHHLs) in rural areas.
The estimated unit cost of an IHHL will be Rs 15,000 and the state government will fund Rs 6,000 for each IHHL, whereas the remaining amount is expected from the Centre. Vijay Laxmi Joshi assured the state government that there would be no shortage of funds for ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission and the Centre will examine the state’s case for additional funds “positively”.
Earlier, reviewing the activities under ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission, Joshi had a video conferencing session with all Deputy Commissioners of the state. She said ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission was never a toilet construction exercise, saying “its intent from day one is the behaviour change of the masses with regard to their health and sanitation issues”.
Suresh Kumar, state Additional Chief Secretary, Water Supply and Sanitation, said the main focus of the state government while constructing toilets for the rural folks has been to generate awareness among them about the ill effects of open defection and persuade them to use the toilets. While highlighting the present status of sanitation in Punjab, he said the state has made noteworthy progress in increasing rural household toilet coverage.
Meanwhile, Kumar pointed out that in 2001, Punjab had 2.7 mn rural households of which 1.1 mn (41 per cent) reported access to toilets. By 2011, the number of rural households increased to 3.3 mn and of this, 2.3 mn (70 per cent) reported access to toilets, he said.
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