Andhra claims ODF status but ground situation unchanged
Though Andhra Pradesh claims to be among the states to become Open Defecation Free, people feel that there is not much improvement in the situation on the ground.
In fact, the southern state is said to have gone a step ahead to achieve ODF Plus. However, people believe that the claim is only on paper.
It was in June last year that then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had declared the state ODF. He claimed that the state achieved its goal of building 2.77 lakh individual toilets.
On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary in 2016, all 110 urban local bodies in the state claimed to have achieved ODF status thanks to the efforts put in Swachha Andhra Corporation (SAC),formed by the state government in 2015 to achieve the goal of the 'Swachh Bharat Mission'.
Many are not ready to accept the government's claim as they point out the fact that people continue to defecate in open, both in rural and urban areas.
"Building toilets in public places is not the goal in itself. What about their maintenance. Anybody who goes around the city will find people urinating in open places adjacent to the toilets because the toilets are not maintained properly," V. Satyanarayana, a social activist in Vijayawada, told IANS.
He claimed that there was no coordination among different departments for constructing the toilets. They were built without proper planning and as a result, a majority of them are not even in a condition to be used by public, he said,
"They did not even ensure proper drainage. There is either water stagnation at many public toilets or they stink. The government's job does not end with building the facility. What about its maintenance," he asked.
The number of public toilets built in urban areas is already insufficient to meet the requirement. Many people complained that they either don't find a public toilet or the place is so dirty that they can't use it.
"While men can still manage, women are the worst-affected. There are no toilet facilities for them. They are not drinking water while going out as they can't relieve themselves for 8-10 hours," Satyanarayana said.
Ramesh Kumar, a private employee in Vijayawada, said a few public toilets maintained well collect huge charges. Lack of public toilets, poor maintenance and hefty charges all force people to defecate in open.
If this is the situation in towns, one can imagine conditions in rural areas.
"In many coastal villages, people still defecate on sea shore. Despite tall claims, awareness has not been created," said G. Srinivas, working with NGO Chaitanya in Visakhapatnam.
He said in some places, toilets with cement and concrete were built for the families who live in huts. "There is lack of proper planning and prioritizing things. People in remote villages and tribal areas still defecate in open. The situation is not different in the city," he said.IANS