While I was working as Panchayat Development Officer, my first assignment was to ‘coerce’ people in villages to construct toilets in their homes, huts, and fields. The incentive was, Rs 3000 per unit for BPL families, and nothing for APL families. In 2005, some crooks had conducted poverty estimations in such a way that influential people in each village were included in the BPL list, and real poor, those forever dumb (forced) were ‘elevated’ to APL list.
The challenge was to convince every family to construct toilet in their homes. When they were not impressed by street dramas, abhiyaans, grama sabha’s, and Rs 3000 per unit, higher officials invented an innovative idea – cut power, water, ration, and even all Panchayat services, until each home gets a toilet. It worked.
But, when I was posted, it was found that even though people had constructed toilets, most of them were not paid any amount by the Panchayat. So others had stopped construction thinking it was futile to waste money on it, their own money.
Money was there in the Panchayat account, around Rs 3,00,000 – enough to pay for 300 units. We paid them, bypassing rich ‘BPL’s. Remaining amount was paid to SC and ST families who were mostly not included in BPL.
I remembered this now, thanks to Planning Commission. It is reported that they spent Rs 35 lakh to ‘renovate’, note it – to renovate, not to build new – toilets, that too only two of them.
Last year my father managed to construct his dream home albeit modest in Mysore on a 2000 sq ft land. It cost him Rs 35 lakhs including land price – all of it loaned from a bank.(he is a lecturer)
For the same amount I could have helped build 1666 toilets in my and neighboring Panchayat. Enough to declare our Panchayats as ‘Nirmal Gram‘.
Every time there was no money in Panchayat account, we had to go and beg Block development officer to release funds. (usually they don’t release easily unless ‘gratified’ )
Even beggar shits, like kings, queens, ministers, chairmen (of some commissions) does – but these elite can not live on Rs 28 as the beggar does.
I also read without surprise that CCTV’s have been installed to spy those two toilets in Yojana Bhavan lest sweepers, cleaners, or even some clerks shit in those swanky toilets where only reputed, Oxbirdge educated butts are ‘reserved’ or allowed to empty their potbelly’s.
Money they spent to renovate those toilets is not their private income. (in which case they would not have spent that much money)
And these people are entrusted to estimate poverty, and then plan for the country. No wonder, they live far away from reality, and live in mansions funded by taxpayer’s money.
Now, government has announced Rs 10000 for every toilet that will be constructed by both BPL and APL families all over the country. Whopping Rs 36000 crores have been allotted for it.
Noble initiative, you might think. It is indeed noble to push people to have their own toilets at home, that too by incentivizing with large sum.
After an year of coercion and persuasion, many families constructed toilets and also took home Rs 3000 (now they must be blaming themselves for early accomplishment as incentive has been increased three fold now)
Honestly Rs 3000 was not enough to build a decent toilet.
What shocked me, when we went for inspection later, was that most people did not use those toilets. Including women, preferred open fields than these government funded shit holes.
The reason: not enough water.
In all the Panchayats, people used to get water for three days a week. that would suffice for drinking. Where would they bring water to flush their toilets, when they don’t have it for cooking, washing and cleaning?
This was a complaint from the beginning from people, but higher officers won’t listen. They coerced people by resorting to inhuman means. They were given targets to achieve.
I was there witnessing, and taking part in the crime. I worked at the lowest level, and had to take orders. This was just one instance where officers at the top work without understanding dynamics at the bottom. Of course we raised this issue in meetings but in vain.
After one and half year of ‘service’ I quit. It was difficult to work where people were not looked upon as people. And corruption! No comments.
Now, those toilets have become store rooms.
Water scarcity was due to power shortage. Every village had access to drinking water – but because of only 6 hours of power per day, it was difficult to supply sufficient water to every village, every day. Panchayats can not produce power, wish they could. (last month our attender had called me, he complained that they were not paid 4 months salary. He asked me to persuade his officer who had replaced me and who is also a friend of mine, to pay them their dues)
Now, the grand plan to provide people with Rs 10000, will again go nowhere, unless fundamental problem is addressed.
Supply enough water to every household, they will have toilets, voluntarily.
Planning commission can not understand this fact for they live illusory world of grand vision. Shining India.
Just a small observation: I seriously doubt if it really cost Rs 35 lakhs for two toilets. I seriously believe that it is only on paper that the amount is Rs 35 lakhs. I smell something foul. (it still stinks in spite of 5 star facility)
‘Commissions’ and ‘kickbacks’ are commonplace these days. You see.