Intensifying a drive for better hygiene at rural levels, the Madhya Pradesh government has started to act on its threats against panchayat leaders who fail to do away with the unhealthy system of dry toilets.
Last year the state assembly had amended the Madhya Pradesh Panchayati Raj and Gram Swaraj Act, 1993, to stipulate that panchayat - village council - representatives must build toilets with a flush in their homes within a year of being elected.
The axe has already fallen upon Mangobai, president of the Chandankheda panchayat, who was removed from her post for failing to construct a toilet at her home, disqualifying her to remain in office as per the provisions of the act.
So far, only 76,114 of the state's 324,167 panchayat representatives have built toilets at their homes. The remaining defaulters were slapped show-cause notices with most having no excuse except that of ignorance.
"Although the deadline for building toilets with a flush expired in February, elected representatives were given a month's grace before district collectors issued show-cause notices to errant panchayat representatives," Panchayati Raj director Vijay Singh Niranjan said.
State Panchayati Raj Minister Narender Singh Tomar said: "The idea is to inculcate a sense of hygiene in rural areas and to abolish the unhealthy system of dry latrines."
"Elected representatives should be model citizens. Money was no constraint as the act amended in March last year stipulated a grant for flush toilets. Several reminders and notices were sent out but to no avail," Tomar told IANS.
"The act also aims to promote sanitation and discourage the practice of women going to answer nature's call out in the open," he added.
Statistics reveal that close to 30 million people in rural areas in India suffer from sanitation-related diseases. About 0.4 to 0.5 million children die of diarrhoea alone each year, with most deaths taking place in villages.
Annual expenses incurred on sanitation-related diseases are reportedly to the tune of Rs.12 billion.