Govt starts drive for use of toilets in rural Gujarat

The state government on Tuesday began training for rural officials in awareness generation after finding that rural folk continue to prefer open fields to the 46 lakh new toilets built since 2004, which many reportedly convert to storage-rooms because they are repulsed by the idea of having a toilet within their living quarters.

A formative study of seven districts by UNICEF and the Rural Development Department also found that most beneficiaries remain unaware of the route through which germs are transmitted from excreta back into the human body and that those who defecate in the open use soil or ash to clean their hands and normally use soap only while washing their hands before taking food, that too only when available.

"Water supply is once in 4-5 days and in summer the frequency decreases to once in 10-14 days," the study also found, a major reason for the low use of toilets. The joint study is the basis of the training exercise where officials from 26 districts are being taught to educate and inform rural residents on the importance of toilets and regular use of soap.

"The priority list in most rural households have things like television sets, cellphones and motorcycles above toilets. We are therefore embarking on an information, education and communication drive to create awareness," S L Amrani, additional commissioner and coordinator of the state's Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, told The Indian Express.

He said the state government had helped build a total of almost 46 lakh toilets for individual households, schools, anganwadi centres and more than 1,700 community toilets between 2004 and 2012. About seven lakh more are estimated to be needed.

"The need for a comprehensive communication and advocacy strategy was necessitated as it was found that the Total Sanitation Campaign, now renamed as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, launched to boost sanitation coverage in rural areas, met with challenges mostly related to prevalent hygiene practices," UNICEF spokeswoman Moumita Dastidar said.

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