Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government is slated to declare three more districts as open defecation-free (ODF) this month. According to a senior state government official, the chief minister is expected to declare the districts of East Burdwan, West Burdwan and Howrah as ODF in mid-October. “We have received reports regarding ODF from the respective districts. They will be declared as ODF once the verification of these reports is complete,” the official said.
In early October, the West Bengal government brought all state-run sanitation programmes under Mission Nirmal Bangla. The project takes its financial succour from plans sanctioned to the states by the central government under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. In 2015, Nadia was declared as the country’s first ODF district under the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’.
Later, districts of Hooghly, East Midnapore, Cooch Behar, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas were declared open defecation-free. According to the government official, attempts are on to declare districts of Malda, Birbhum and South Dinajpur as ODF by this year. It may be noted that the state government has declared April 30 as ‘Nirmal Bangla Divas’.
The Centre aims to make India ODF by October 2, 2019, while the West Bengal government has set a deadline of August, 2019 for the same. On the steps taken by the state government to achieve this, an official of the panchayat and rural development department said, “We are working much ahead of the schedule and hopefully we will achieve the target before the deadline. “We are trying to declare a few more districts like Birbhum, South Dinajpur and Malda ODF by this year-end.”
The Bengal government is also emphasising on the use and maintenance of toilets in the districts. Toilets must be maintained by those who are using them. Non-maintenance will make the toilets unfit, leading to open defecation again, the official said. The state government is being assisted by UNICEF and some NGOs in creating awareness among the people.