All panchayats ready to be declared free of open defecation under Central scheme
The capital district is finally ready to declare all its panchayats free of open defecation, thus paving the way for the State to be declared a ‘Nirmal’ State as part of the Centre’s Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.
The delay here was the practical difficulty in getting five panchayats, Karumkulam, Vakkom, Kilimanoor, Madavoor, and Vettoor, to join the list of panchayats that had managed to ensure latrines for all families, apart from adequate public latrine facilities and awareness of the need for eradicating the practice of open defecation.
According to officials, the main part – of constructing latrines – was over by March this year. Only the finishing touches were remaining, which centred on ensuring that the latrines were used and there was no more open defecation in the panchayat.
“That has been done, and now we are ready for the status. The inter-district evaluation, which is part of the Centre’s norms before we have these panchayats declared ‘Nirmal’, is nearing completion. We are expecting a Central team to arrive here for the final inspections in the first week of September and probably for the State to be declared a ‘Nirmal’ State by September 4,” a senior Suchitwa Mission official said.
When Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh reviewed the State’s progress on the Abhiyan in June last year, 19 panchayats remained to be declared free of open defecation, a practice that threw questions on the concept of Kerala’s high standards of hygiene and sanitation. While the rest managed to be ready for evaluation by the end of last year, the five panchayats in the capital district remained sour spots. That ignominy was done away with in the beginning of this year. By June, even Karumkulam, among the villages with the highest population density in Asia, and termed by Mr. Ramesh a “difficult” and “critical” panchayat for the Abhiyan, fell in line.
The panchayat had 1,750 domestic latrines constructed newly while six sanitation complexes were renovated with 68 toilet units that now cater to 500 families. Eight community latrine complexes were also installed, also introducing to the State the concept of bio-latrines at the panchayat-level.
The awareness campaigns would continue, the officials said, adding that the State was ahead of others in completing formalities for achieving the ‘Nirmal’ status.
With only Sikkim being declared a ‘Nirmal’ State so far, Kerala would be the first ‘major’ State to achieve the status if the declaration came in September, the officials said.