Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, the Rural Development Minister today in New Delhi Announced that the country was set to achieve open defecation free status under the governments Total Sanitation Programme ( TSC) by 2012.
Open defecation is a problem that is not faced only in rural India but also in urban India. The lack of enough public bathrooms, a clean sanitation environment, and basic education in the poor as well as rural communities has resulted in this pressing problem.
The consumption of unsafe drinking water, the disposal of human excreta, the lack of personal and food hygiene is the largest cause of disease and high infant mortality rate in developing countries like India. After all a direct relationship does fall between water, sanitation and health.
With the launch of TSC in 1999 by the rural development ministry these and several other problems are being addressed on a larger scale with the hope of eradicating them in the distant future.
The government's efforts seem extremely encouraging after a new report on the success of their project reveled that since 2001 there has been a constant growth on the uses of toilets.
"The growth in the use of toilets from 22 percent in 2001 to 38 percent of the population in 2006 (till February) is an encouraging sign." Announced M.P Prasad Singh.
"The government has raised the grant for construction of household toilets from Rs.625 to Rs.1, 500. While the central government would now bear 70 percent of the expenditure as against 60 percent earlier, the rest will be shared by the state government and the family," he said, on the sidelines of a campaign on the need to wash hands.
The minister pointed out other issues related to defecation.
"In Haryana and Punjab people are not poor, what they lack is awareness. They have trucks, tractors and four-wheelers but no toilets - this is really surprising. However, states like Gujarat and Maharashtra are doing well," he said.
Singh said that plans were afoot to extend the TSC to all districts of India by the end of 2007-08 financial year.
Speaking about other sanitation measures taken by his ministry, he said a water surveillance campaign worth Rs.2.68 billion had been launched to train five people in every panchayat (village clusters) to monitor water quality in villages.
"Currently 468 blocks in India have water surveillance laboratories. Under the new campaign, efforts would be made to extend the facility to every block."
He said 216,000 village clusters were hit by the problem of poor quality water.
"We have reports of excessive fluoride, nitrate and presence of other chemicals in water. The authorities are working to provide quality water."