Rural Maharashtra was declared open-defecation free by the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday, who also claimed that the largest number of toilets were constructed in his state. If indeed true, this would mark a sharp a contrast from the 2012 situation when about 55 percent of the rural population in the state had no access to toilets.
As per Fadnavis, these toilet-less households were provided with the facility in the last three and a half years, which encompassed 34 districts, 21,000 gram panchayats and 40,500 villages. Quoting figures Fadnavis claimed that 2016-17 saw the construction of 19.16 lakh toilets which was trumped by the figure of 22.51 lakh toilets in 2017-18. He claimed that a total of 2.81 lakh common toilets too have been constructed.
The total cost to build the toilets has been estimated at Rs 4,500 crores, the expense which, was borne jointly by the centre and the state. Fadnavis also boasted that no other Indian state had managed to construct so many toilets in the past three and a half years.
Fadnavis claimed that the government won’t be stopping at this and would launch a second part of “‘Swachh Maharashtra” campaign which will encourage people to use the constructed toilets. This proposal is in line with the Maharashtra government’s previous decision to “shame” people for defecating in the open.
With regards to the “open defecation free” claim, the Fadnavis government has claimed that it has employed a three-tier validation process, where the said region is first inspected by a local body, then by a state body and finally by a central agency before being declared open defecation free.
Back in October 2017, President Kovind had declared urban Maharashtra as open defecation free, while congratulating the Fadnavis government for taking the lead in fulfilling these objectives. This claim though was disputed by media reports which claimed that the capital Mumbai provided evidence to the contrary.