Chandigarh: Decrying the lack of proper sanitation facilities, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday said toilets built over the last 10 years across the country are being used for storing food grain.
"In last 10 years, toilets have been built (across the country)...But toilets are not being used for the purpose for which they had been built. They are being used for storing food grain...They have been turned into storage godowns and they have been locked," Ramesh told reporters here today.
The minister chaired a regional review meeting on drinking water supply and sanitation in which representatives from Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh participated.
Asked about states where toilets were being used for storing food grain, Ramesh said Punjab was one of them where this practice was being followed.
Not optimistic of achieving the target of making India an open-defecation free country in next 10 years, Ramesh said there were several big states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa where it would take at least 15-20 years to become open-defecation free.
"...I do not think that we can achieve this target...We have several big states like UP, Bihar, Orissa and MP where it seems impossible that these states will be open-defecation free by 2022. These states may take 15-20 years," he noted.
Asserting that 60 per cent people in the country still defecate in the open, Ramesh said that the Centre had set a target to become open-defecation free under the `Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan` in the next ten years.
The financial assistance for setting up a toilet has also been hiked from Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000 by the Centre, Ramesh said.
Noting that there was a need to bring about a change in the mindset of people, he stressed that strong political will would also be essential to make the country open-defecation free.
He said, "Sikkim has become the first state in the country which is now open-defecation free. By November, Kerala will become open-defecation free, thereafter Himachal Pradesh will in March 2013".
Though Haryana was on course to have sanitation facilities by March 2015, Ramesh said that only two per cent of Gram Panchayats in Punjab have them.
He further said that an MoU would soon be signed with DRDO to have 50,000 bio-digester to facilitate proper sanitation facilities and 1,000 Gram Panchayats would be selected in first phase to set up bio-digester based toilets.