COIMBATORE: The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) website proclaimed that Tamil Nadu had 41.79 lakh toilets as of Wednesday morning. By evening, another 6,000 toilets were added to the landscape of the state, taking the total number of toilets to 41.86 lakh.
The state, according to data on the SBM website, has built 4,000 toilets a day on an average for the past two years, trumping the national average of 1,700 a day. If that data is startling, more surprising is the sharp contrast between the number of households in Tamil Nadu having a toilet and the number of households using one.
According to the fourth edition of the National Family Health Survey 2015–16, the latest available, nearly two of five people did not use a proper toilet, and in all probability defecate in the open. The Union ministry of health and family welfare survey says only 52.2 % households in the state were using a toilet. But according to SBM data, 63.85 % households had toilets. There is a mismatch of more than 10% between the number of households having toilets and those that use one.
Assuming that all households in the state with toilets use them, the 10% increase in the number of households with toilets under the SBM could have been a jacked-up figure to claim the grant given by the Centre, and this points to a scam, say activists.
Political leaders demand probe by Centre
This year, the state government claims that 95.03% of its population has individual household latrines and plans to achieve 100% open defecation-free status in a few months.
But due to the mismatch in data, activists and politicians have called for a thorough audit of all toilets constructed across the state.
Several political leaders called this number unbelievable and sought a central government probe into it. BJP spokesperson Vanathi Srinivasan said that in her native village near Thondamuthur, the scheme was not implemented properly.
“Payments were not credited to the beneficiary’s accounts,” she said.
T K S Elangovan, spokesperson of the DMK, said constructing 4,000 toilets every day, even at the state level, is impossible.
“This is PM Modi’s ambitious project and it is the state government that has to implement it. If the state is providing false numbers and swindling funds, the central government should do an inspection and take action against officials,” he said.
Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK said that despite the project having various checks and balances, state government officials have not implemented the project as per norms.
“The Centre should create a toll-free number to file complaints. We will send our party men to all villages and submit reports on the toilet scam,” he said.
G Ramakrishnan of the CPM said that in a small village, K Madhapur in Sulur, out of 100 toilets, less than 50 were constructed under the scheme.
“Similarly, 30 lakh toilets will also be a false number. This is lot of public money. There should be an audit as this is a big scam,” he said.
When senior state government officials were contacted, they said they were aware of some discrepancies in the implementation of the SBM scheme.
“We are conducting audits and inspections whenever we get complaints. As far as the number goes, there are 385 blocks and more than 12,000 panchayats in the state. So, it is possible to construct so many toilets in that period as the awareness among public to set up household toilets has increased in the last two years,” an official said.