Open defecation percentage highest in Jharkhand

| | Ranchi
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Open defecation percentage highest in Jharkhand

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 | Pranav Pratyush | Ranchi

Jharkhand may boast to be one of the leading States in terms of revenue generation through mineral resources for the country, but in terms of human development index and even basic health and sanitation facilities it remains at the bottom of the list. 

 As per Census 2011 statistics highlighted by UNICEF Jharkhand, open defecation in rural areas is highest in Jharkhand among all States in the country. Shockingly, 92.4 per cent of the people in rural areas of Jharkhand do not have toilets, followed by Madhya Pradesh (86.9 per cent), Orissa (85.9 per cent), Chhattisgarh (85.5 per cent) and Bihar (82.4 per cent). The countrywide percentage of population not having toilets is 69.3 as per the Census figures.

 Interestingly, the website of the Ministry of Drinking Water &Sanitation (MoDWS), Government of India shows that about 42.6 per cent of the rural households in Jharkhand have constructed toilets – a fact that has inconsistency of 35 per cent with the Census 2011 data. 

 But even more shocking is the fact that the State seem to have the highest percentage of open defecation in the world as per the Human Development Report of UNDP for 2010, out of 190 countries in the world, the highest per cent of population without access to improved sanitation is in Niger and Chad with 91 per cent, followed by Burkina Faso (89 per cent) and Ethiopia, Benin and Togo with 88 per cent each.

 On the other hand, Drinking Water and Sanitation department Minister of Jharkhand Jaiprakash Bhai Patel though sounded quite disturbed with the fact, he could not reveal any unique strategy of the State Government that may improve the situation fast.

 “We want people to use toilets. We are helping social organizations and communities to construct toilets in rural areas. The Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) is also going on with the help of Centre. We are making use of revolving funds for the purpose and also trying to build community toilets in rural areas,” he said.

 “Since this more of a public habit changing process. Public awareness is a must and we are focusing on that. We want more and more community involvement in the issue,” the Minister added accepting that the government did not have any unique initiative to drastically improve the situation.

 However, according to UNICEF, Jharkhand Chief Job Zachariah situation had improved a bit since the NBA was started. “Earlier we used to construct toilets and count them. The programmes were not focused on curbing open defecation. The NBA is a focused programme that includes behavioural change and impact. It also offers continued support after construction of toilets. Actually, people must be made aware as to why toilets are needed and how open defecation affects their health adversely,” Zachariah said.

 Though he admitted that changing habits and psyche of people takes time, Zachariah said that the element of “before” played a crucial role in the NBA as there was a strong focus on awareness, concern and followup before and after construction of the toilets.

 He also pointed out that the village level participation was missing in the earlier schemes. “Today we have Jal Sahiyas, village level sanitation committees, Mukhiyas so the results would be visible soon. The real problem is that the people are not able to relate the ill effects of open defecation with health. It actually has a strong connection with malnutrition, poor health and standing of children. And this problem will not be solved through, jingles, media resources and public speech we need to develop a strong bond with communities and help them contribute to the process of the much needed change,” said Zachariah.

In Jharkhand, Village Water & Sanitation Committees (VWSC) have been constituted with Mukhya as president in over 25,000 villages.  There are also over 25,000 Jal Sahiyas (female grass root workers) in these villages.

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