The toilets built under the Swachh Bharat Scheme are badly maintained and locked, restricting public usage.
The community toilets in Kumbalgodu Golahalli (K.Golahalli) village built under the Swachh Bharat Mission are not being maintained by the Gram Panchayat. Rs.1,80,000 was spent on the construction of these toilets three years ago.
Ramya, a student of Kengeri Pre-University College and a resident of the village said, “There is no maintenance of these toilets and they are permanently closed. All the houses of K.Golahalli have toilets, but workers and people in and around the school use community toilets. The lack of maintenance of these toilets restricts people from accessing them.”
The panchayat received funds from the central government under the Swachh Bharat scheme to build the toilets but is facing difficulty in maintaining them with its own funds.
Madhu, a member of the Gram Panchayat at K.Golahalli said, “There are no funds to maintain the community toilets. We have written to the central government seeking funds, but there has been no update on the same.”
Neelima Thota, Senior Advisor at Support to National Urban Sanitation Policy II said that the local authorities have to decide what steps they want to take in order to sustain the assets provided through government funding. They can charge the users to use these assets and if affordability is an issue, there are other alternatives like advertisements to generate money. “In my experience, I have noticed that people from lower and middle-income backgrounds tend to pay in a disciplined manner if they understand the opportunity cost,” she added.
The toilets have been built on the main road of the village, outside the government Primary school and opposite the Gram Panchayat office, just near the bus stand. Four out of five toilets built under this scheme are permanently closed and the one toilet that is open is damaged and badly maintained.
Nagaraj, an auto driver pointed to a measurement board that had nothing written on it and said, “There is usually no transparency about the revenue and expenditure of the gram panchayat. We have a measurement board in the village, which has always been empty. We do not really know if they have or do not have funds.”
The guidelines of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) state that the mission will motivate communities and Panchayati Raj Institutions to adopt sustainable sanitation practices and facilities through education and awareness.
Dr. R Rajesh, a professor of sociology at Bangalore University said, “The community toilets are an initiative by the central government. However, it is the responsibility of the local authorities to sustain these facilities.” He further said that gram panchayats must create avenues of income that can be utilized to maintain the toilets. He suggested that the toilets be maintained round the clock.
He also mentioned that several villages across the country face issues in sustaining government-funded projects that are launched to change a pattern.
“Management of toilets can bring in employment opportunities for unemployed youth. The youth can run their families with the income and simultaneously the toilets will also be maintained,” Dr. Rajesh concluded.
Anjanappa, Director of Gram Panchayats section, Department of Rural Development, and Panchayat Raj mentioned that his team will ensure that the toilets built under the Swachh Bharat scheme be maintained well.