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Last Updated Tuesday April 25 2017 10:21 AM IST

Drones, cameras, teachers ... govt pulls out all stops to push villagers into toilets

Sachidananda Murthy
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Toilet Representative image

The manic zeal to eliminate open defecation in the villages has made authorities come up with extreme steps to ensure nobody uses open spaces as toilets. Some measures have bordered on the impractical and ridiculous.

The urgency is in BJP ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Assam and Jharkhand than in non-BJP ruled states.

In Madhya Pradesh's Katni, which is exactly the center point of modern India, the police have declared a war not only on those who do not have toilets but even against those who have toilets but don't use them.

As district magistrates and police superintendents, along with Zilla panchayats are under pressure from Shivraj Chauhan, the officers are coming up with ideas which will deny basic rights for those who insist on defecating in the open.

The Katni superintendent of police has told all the police stations not to issue no objection certificates for getting driving licenses and passports to those who don't use closed door toilets. He has said even basic character certificates can be issued only after a man or woman convince the local police that they are using the toilet regularly. Same applies to getting LPG gas agencies and weapon licenses.

But critics have pointed out that there are no clean toilets in some of the police outposts, forcing the policemen on duty to use toilets in nearby buildings.

In neighboring Satna district, the district education officer went a step further. He told all school teachers in the district to do an inspection every morning and report on those who are defecating. This was very embarrassing for a large number of lady teachers in the district, who made their resentment known through the teacher's associations. The local people also started ridiculing the teachers that their nose is important than their brain.

In Khargone district, the chief executive officer of the Zilla panchayat told the employees in villages to go round and take the photograph of men and women doing toilet in the open. The result was obvious. Two employees were thrashed by the irate locals, who smashed the phones. The idea of uploading the pictures on the panchayat website evaporated.

The police in Haryana's Yamuna Nagar district had a technical solution for this problem. The district SP S S Phulia decided to use low-flying drones to photograph the defecators without any fear of the drone being attacked.

But there were strong protests in villages which were selected for the pilot project. The SP said he would not use drones if the villagers ensured no one used the open ground for relieving themselves from November 1.

In Rajasthan, panchayat employees have been told that their salaries will be withheld if they do not certify they have a toilet in their homes and they are regularly using them.

The hard push has come from prime minister Narendra Modi who has set the November target for ending open defecation in the country, and asked the BJP governments to put all efforts.

However, urban development ministry officials admit that it is a huge task, as there are nearly two crore people in the cities and towns who do not have a roof over their head, according to the 2011 census. But the central government is relentlessly pushing the states and districts to adopt innovative methods to ensure that everyone uses a toilet is achieved within the deadline. Even if it means cutting off many facilities and amenities, which was available to every Indian by right.

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