Life is without toilets for millions in Bihar


Patna : Parvatia Devi and her young daughter, residents of Ranipur village near the Bihar capital, make their way to an open field under the cover of darkness every day – to defecate. They are the faces of millions of people in Bihar – around 8.8 million households in a state of over 100 million people – who have no toilet facilites.

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Ranipur village under Phulawrisharief police station is one such village.

“Going to a nearby field to defecate in groups in the darkness is a regular feature for these people,” Rajdeo Paswan, a villager, told IANS here.

“If you want to see the reality, please visit the nearby field early morning and/or late evening as people are forced to go there to attend nature’s call.”

Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) data shows that over 8.8 million households in Bihar, particularly in rural areas, still don’t have toilets at home.

“It is true that millions of poor people in Bihar still don’t have toilet facilities,” a PHED official said.

The department has aimed at providing toilet facilities to more than ten milion families in the state this year, but till July only over two million households had been covered.

The lack of toilets is raising a stink in Bihar.

“Patna is hardly eight kilometres from this village but still people are living without toilet facilities despite the state government’s tall claims of development,” a businessman from the Alba colony adjacent to Ranipur village said on condition of anonymity.

The union government has launched the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), a programme that ensures sanitation facilities in rural areas to eradicate open defecation. But Bihar is among the states lagging behind.

Union Minister of Rural Development C.P. Joshi announced last month that the percentage of rural households without basic sanitation in Bihar stood at 72.58 percent.

Records show Bihar is the worst performer in the national Total Sanitation Campaign. Out of those without access to sanitation in India, one in six live in Bihar, finds the survey.

State PHED Minister Ashwini Choubey said the state government is committed to providing toilet facilities to all households under the Total Sanitation Campaign by 2012.

“The government is doing everything possible to provide toilets to all,” he said. He said after the Nitish Kumar government came to power in November 2005, the pace of construction of toilets speeded up in the state.

Earlier this year, Oliver Cumming, a senior policy analyst with London-based international NGO WaterAid was in Bihar with a challenging public health mission — to make the state free of open defecation in two years.

Criss-crossing the state, Cumming observed that an estimated 85 million toilets need to be built to free the state of open defecation.

WaterAid, in partnership with the PHED, has tied up with Unicef, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme and Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) for a project to make Bihar open defecation free (ODF) by 2012.

Bihar also has a high incidence of polio, which spreads through the faecal-oral route.

According to WHO, the state reported 117 cases last year, 38 being of the highly infectious polio strain virus P1.

Without proper facilities, Bihar’s fight against polio too may be that much tougher.