Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 6:
Odisha has missed even its own revised deadline of July 31 for completing construction of new toilets in government-run schools. Only 24,078 out of the targeted 43,533 toilets have been completed in the state so far.
The School and Mass Education department of the state government has again reset its deadline to August 10 to complete the target. With only four more days left for the new extended deadline to end, apprehensions have been raised if the target set by the department to complete construction of 19,455 toilets in schools can really be met within the deadline.
According to sources in the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA), construction of toilets in schools have not been completed in any of the 30 districts in the state. Koraput district tops the list in completion of construction of toilets in schools. While it was targeted to construct toilets in 1,442 schools in the district, construction has been completed in 1,433 schools, just nine short of the target.
Next comes Baleswat where out of 304 schools targeted for construction of toilets, construction has been completed in 268 schools, 36 less than the target. Construction has been completed in 709 out of the targeted 774 schools in Gajapati district.
The situation in Nabarangpur district is the most hopeless. Out of the targeted 2,875 toilets to be constructed in schools in the district, work has been completed in only 578 while construction is on in 2,297, according to OPEPA sources. The ground reality is construction work is yet to begin on 800 toilets. It will take around two months to complete.
Bhadrak too has performed dismally, having managed to construct just 28 out the 341 toilets it had targeted.
Ganjam district, which had set an ambitious target of constructing 3,817 toilets, has managed to construct no more than 1,989 while work s yet to begin in 1,828.
In Balangir district, out of the targeted construction of 2,755 toilets, work has been completed in 951 while construction work is on in 1,804. Out of the 2,907 toilets targeted to be constructed in Bargarh district, construction has been completed in 1,421 and work is on in 1,486. In Kalahandi district, out of the target of 2,805 toilets in the district, 1,341 have been completed while construction is on in 1,463. In Nuapada, construction has been completed in 241 out of the targeted 1,643, while work is on in 1,402.
Similar situation prevails in Khordha district. Out of targeted 2,234 toilets, 1,160 have been completed while work is on in 1,074.
Taking into consideration the progress made, it will take at least two months to complete the construction of the remaining 19,455 toilets, believe people in the know of things. However, OPEPA has claimed that construction of toilets will be completed by August 10 this year.
Work is yet to begin on a majority of toilets which were to be constructed by public sector units (PSUs).
Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha that within the next one year, all government schools in the country will have separate toilets for boys and girls. Funds have been sanctioned for construction of 10.26 lakh toilets in the country.
Notably, the state government had first asked all district collectors to complete the construction of toilets in schools by June end so that children could use them once the schools reopened after summer vacation. The school and mass education department had sounded off an alert to districts for completing construction of toilets in schools under Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya scheme.
Various PSUs and corporate houses had promised to construct more than 17,000 toilets in schools across the state as part of Swachha Vidyalaya Abhiyan.
The School and Mass Education department had conducted a survey of schools without toilets and also of schools with defunct toilets. The state government had estimated that 44,002 toilets needed to be either constructed or renovated in schools in the state.PSUs and corporate houses were provided these details and requested to construct toilets in schools under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
Following criticism from several quarters over the delay in construction of toilets in schools after their reopening, Ranjana Chopra, the newly appointed secretary of the department, revised the deadline and directed officials to complete construction of toilets in all government-run schools latest by July 20.
With PSUs failing to meet the deadline of constructing new toilets in schools, chief secretary GC Pati, during a video conference on July 22, asked district collectors to complete construction of toilets allotted to PSUs on a war footing with construction of low-cost functional toilets by July 31.
The second extension of the deadline was prompted by the Centre seeking a status report on the school toilet project. In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that all schools in the country will have toilets within a year. The Centre wanted feedback as the Prime Minister would inform the countrymen about the toilet project on this Independence Day.
With Independence Day nearing, the state government has again reset its deadline to August 10 for completing construction of toilets in schools.