It may be recalled that Nadia has already been declared as the open defecation free district. Around 3.7 lakh toilets were constructed in the district in 18 months and bagged the crown of being the best open free defecation district in the country. This announcement was made by the Centre and Mamata Banerjee conveyed this to public at a function at Krishnanagar on April 30, 2015. She had announced that the day would be celebrated as Nirmal Bangla Divas every year.
A senior official of the Panchayat and Rural Development department said a state wide baseline survey on houses having access to toilets had revealed that out of 1.51 crore rural households, 67.77 lakhs households did not have access to toilet facility.
The state government took up the issue much before the Centre declared the Swatch Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014. The state Panchayat and Rural development minister Subrata Mukherjee had held a meeting with the District Magistrates on October 19, 2013 which is observed as world toilet day and the district magistrates took a pledge to prevent open defecation and every household should have access to toilets. As per the Centre’s guidelines, all the rural houses in the country must have access to toilets by October 2, 2019 and Sarkar believes that the state government will achieve the target before the deadline.
He said that three problems had cropped up and the Panchayat and Rural development department had taken elaborate measures to iron out the problems.
The biggest question now is whether those who have got toilets at their houses will finally use them. To change their behavioural pattern, massive awareness drives has been taken up. On December 4, 2015 around 23 lakh people took part in the hand washing drive in Nadia.
The second question is what should be the fate of those toilets which had been constructed before the Swachh Bharat Mission and needed immediate repair. The state government has kept a fund reserved for the purpose. After the government is formed, money would be given to the beneficiaries so that they could repair the toilets.
Slowly, all the districts in West Bengal should be open defecation free in three to four years. It will be one of the important agenda of the state government to work in this sphere.