Patna: With statistics showing around 16.5 million households in the state still do not have toilets, a remote district in Bihar has set a record by digging 110,000 toilet pits in a single day.
The idea is part of the continuing campaign to make people know the importance of sanitation.
The district that achieved the rare feat is Sitamarhi, the birth place of legendary Sita who is the main character the epic Ramayana. It is from Sita that the district has got its name.
Authorities said thousands of villagers joined the massive campaign launched by the local administration to dig toilet pits in their homes on Monday during which a total of 110,000 toilet pits were dug in between 9am and to 5pm.
The campaign nicknamed “Dig Out Pits, Construct Toilets” received massive support of the villagers after the local district magistrate Ranjit Kumar Singh personally got involved and urged residents dig pits to help declare their district “open-defecation free”.
“This is a major step towards freeing this historic district from the dirty tag of open defecation. We salute the zeal of the masses,” the district magistrate told the media on Monday evening.
The magistrate himself dug out one toilet pit at a Dalit hamlet in Dumra block.
In a bid to create mass awareness about the importance of sanitation, the official has also launched the “selfies with toilet” campaign in the district and also announced an award for the best selfie.
Bihar remains one of the worst performers in the area of toilet construction and, as per an official report, around 16.5 million households out of over 110 million populations in the state currently do not have toilets in their homes, forcing the people to defecate in the open.
Right now, only 308 villages out of total over 44,000 in Bihar have been declared free from open defecation.
With huge number of villages still out of reach of toilets, authorities in the state have adopted various measures to prompt the villagers have access to toilets.
Last year, the education department asked teachers to make rounds in the rural areas both in the morning and the evening, to guard against open defecation and take pictures of those relieving in the open so as to shame them.
Authorities have also formed committees of four to five teachers in the respective areas to monitor the progress of the cleanliness drive, a move which drew bitter criticisms, ultimately forcing the authorities to cancel the order.
The level of sanitation is very alarming in Bihar. According to an official report, only 33.84 per cent families in the state have toilets at home whereas the rest are still compelled to defecate in the open.
A report of the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based research and advisory body, too presents horrible picture of Bihar on the sanitation front.
According to the study, around 99 per cent of the expenditure of the state has gone towards building of toilets. However, the abysmal quality of the toilets built has meant that their usage has been very low.
“Bihar has converted less than 1 per cent of the total dysfunctional toilets in the country into functional ones,” said Sushmita Sengupta, the lead researcher behind the CSE study.
The CSE’s research findings further state that the target of 100 per cent household toilet coverage in Bihar could happen only by 2033 given the current rate of toilet construction.