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More Money In Sanitation But Panchayats Play Truant

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India’s Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) has struggled in the past for want of funds and efforts towards effective implementation. Approximately 53% of India (Census 2011) does not have access to any kind of toilet facilities against 64% in Census 2001.


Perhaps in keeping with the importance of total sanitation – as an important driver of basic health – the Government in Budget 2012 announced a sharp hike in the outlay for the programme, 112% or from Rs 1,665 crore to Rs 3,150 crore.


SPR Foundation’s Sourjya Bhowmick finds the outlay encouraging but discovers that the incentives have incentivised the scheme’s implementers to fudge, by declaring it a success in several Gram Panchayats and even getting awards given while the truth is otherwise.


The TSC is one of the oldest flagship programmes of the Union Government. It started in the year 1989 when it was merged with the already existing Central Rural Sanitation Campaign. The main goal of the programme is to eradicate open defecation by the year 2017.


Full Sanitation A While Away


While the figure of 64% of the population accessing toilets might sound better than 53% (a decade ago), it’s quite evident that full sanitation is still a while away. As of December 28, 2011, TSC projects have been sanctioned in 607 of a total of 640 districts in India.


And there is the Nirmal Gram Puraskar, where a Panchayat is awarded anything between Rs 50,000 to Rs 50 lakh, based on its population and if it is 100% sanitation covered.


The incentive has worked but it’s not clear how. There has been a surprising increase from 45 Nirmal Gram (Panchayats achieving 100% Open Defecation Free) in 2005 to 5,000 in 2007. Latest information suggests that around 30,000 Panchayats had applied for the award. Till 2011, a total of 25,145 Gram Panchayats had received the award.


Not As Clean As They Seem


The problem is in the discrepancies in the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. As per the Action Research Unit report of 2008, which was eventually published in the India Human Development Report, 2011 there were many Gram Panchayats in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal that still had Open Defecation records, though they had won the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. In 2008, there were 162 Gram Panchayats in these states where people still practiced open defecation but had won Nirmal Gram Puraskar.


An important component of the TSC programme is Information, Education, and Communication (IEC). Keeping in mind that in many cases household sanitation facilities are used as storage houses as well as there are widespread social beliefs which prevent villagers from using latrine, IEC is a very important mechanism.


However, only 5% of the budgetary allocation is used for IEC purposes. Himachal Pradesh and Haryana are among the best performing states when it came to Open Defecation Free (ODF) and it is found that they have spent close to 70% of the approved IEC.


Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, the poor performers have spent even less than 20% of the approved IEC funds. But the TSC programme prefers spending money on awarding Nirmal Gram Puraskar rather than increasing allocation for strengthening IEC mechanisms.


Interestingly, Union Budget 2012 has allocated Rs 3,150 crore, which is 112% over last year’s budget of Rs 1,485 crore. The table below gives us an idea of how much has been allocated to the programme over the last few years.


Allocation To Total Sanitation Campaign Since 2007-08


Budget Year Plan Outlay (in Rs cr) Increase Over The Previous Year (in Rs cr)
2012-2013 3,150 1,665
2011-2012 1,485 63
2010-2011 1,422 342
2009-2010 1,080 0
2008-2009 1,080 126
2007-2008 954


Source: Union Budget.


If we compare the TSC, with other social schemes, we see that the amount budgeted every year is not as much as some of the other schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which got Rs 33,000 crore or National Rural Health Mission ( NRHM) which got Rs 18,515 crore.


TSC Gets Lowest Funds


The Total Plan outlay from its inception till now has been Rs 22,022 crore, with a central share of Rs 14,425 crore (one of the lowest of other Central Government schemes). The funds are for building latrines with an expenditure share of 70:20:10 between the Centre, State and the Beneficiary. The subsidy provided by the centre is Rs 3,200 for below poverty line (BPL) families and Rs 1,500 for above poverty line (APL) families. It accounts for three-fourth of the total spent. However, constructing an individual toilet could cost anything between Rs 4,000-5,000. The beneficiary often shies away from paying his part due to social beliefs and sometimes the toilet is used as a storage place. Misuse and siphoning of funds are other issues.


As of December 28, 2011, TSC projects have been sanctioned in 607 rural districts. The census 2011 states that there are a total of 640 districts in India.  Thus, it seems that the remaining 33 districts are fully sanitised, as the Economic Survey of the previous year also talks of 607 districts where the TSC project is going on.


Last year, the incentive for Individual Household Latrines was also increased. With effect from June 2001, Rs 3,200 is provided for BPL households, earlier it was Rs 2,200. This may be one of the primary reasons for the 112% increase in this year’s budget.


No Sanitation in 65% Of Rural Households


Based on the Census 2001 Only 21.9% of the rural households had access to latrines. However, the Economic Survey 2011 said that upto November, 2010, 67.8% of rural sanitation was achieved, which maybe the percent achieved of the target which was earlier set, otherwise there is a major discrepancy. The India Human Development Report, 2011 of the Planning Commission has a different take. According to IHDR, 65% of rural households in India are without toilets. States like Rajasthan, Tripura, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam do not even show a rise in access to sanitation facilities.


The Economic Survey (2012) says that since 1999, the following has been achieved:

  • 83 million toilets have been provided for rural households.
  • 1.1 million school toilet units
  • 39.4 million Anganwadi toilets, meant for school sanitation and hygiene education.


Another impressive fact is that 12.2 million toilets were built just in 2010-2011. For 2011-2012, as of January, 2012 more than 6.3 million toilets have been provided to rural households.


This year’s Economic Survey says that rural sanitation coverage has increased to 86% as of January, 2012 and as reported by the states.


If we take this information provided by the different states and eventually published in the Economic Survey’s to be accurate, then it means that in 14 months there has been an 18% increase in the rural sanitation coverage!

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