Millennium Post

The stink of corruption

There appear to be no end of scams in the construction of toilets for the rural poor in Uttar Pradesh. Now Sulabh International and three other NGOs that have been named in an FIR lodged by the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) for embezzlement of funds in the construction of toilets under a government scheme in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh. It has been found during an enquiry that payments were made to four NGOs, including Sulabh, for the construction of toilets in Rampur district but one-third of the toilets were never constructed, with the money have been siphoned of. It is suspected that the scam is not limited to a single district, for similar embezzlement may have taking place in other areas with as much as Rs 240 crore having been spent to construct toilets in 53 districts across the state.

Indeed, the scam in the construction of toilets is not new at all, for the stink of a toilet scam had made itself felt earlier this year when the UP panchayati raj department told the ministry of rural development that it had got 1.71 crore toilets constructed under the centre sponsored Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in the past one decade. But the household census data indicates that only 55 lakh rural households have toilets. Thus, there is a contradiction between the figures with the TSC of toilets constructed and the the actual situation on the ground which is difficult to explain. There has been gross over-reporting which means, that 1.16 crore toilets in rural UP, which are shown on paper to have been constructed and for which public money has been spent, are missing. Experts have pointed out that the extent of over-reporting has been close to three times. The amount of public money involved is not petty but could run up to Rs 2,900 crore. There are thus huge irregularities in the construction of toilets under the TSC pointing to rampant corruption.

The victims, in the main, are the urban and rural poor of whom a large percentage continue to do without toilets, with those affected numbering up to 35.31 lakh households. Thus, the very purpose of TSC stands defeated by corruption and scams in UP and there may actually be more people defecating in the open than previously. There is a need to bring all those who have made off with government money to the book. All the cases of embezzlement of funds meant for the construction of toilets must be thoroughly investigated and those found guilty, howsoever high a post they may hold, should be given exemplary punishment.
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