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Toilet truth: leaders fail to tie ‘loos’ ends

New Delhi, Nov. 18: If toilets are a test of a leader’s commitment, Manmohan Singh is 18 years behind Sonia Gandhi.

As for Ghulam Nabi Azad, he is the last person who can ask his voters to flush out the habit of defecating in the open.

Talking crap? No, plain toilet truth.

The health minister’s constituency, Jammu, is unlikely to see total sanitation till at least the year 2266 — or 254 years behind schedule!

On the eve of World Toilet Day tomorrow, the country’s cabinet ministers are raising a stink — literally. Only nine of 33 are on course to meet the target of total sanitation by 2012, according to an analysis carried out by international NGO WaterAid. The report will be released tomorrow.

Even the constituency of rural development minister C.P. Joshi, the man in charge of the sanitation drive, will have to wait another 14 years, or 11 years behind schedule.

The deadline is part of the UN Millennium Development Goals that India has ratified. “Globally, 1.2 billion people practise open defecation; two-thirds of them — 778 million — are in South Asia. Out of this, 665 million people open defecate in India. India will unequivocally decide whether the world will stink less or not,” says the report.

But all is not lost.

Thiruvananthapuram, the permanent address of defence minister A.K. Antony and overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi (both are Rajya Sabha MPs and domiciled in the Kerala capital), is set to achieve the target by this year itself — three years ahead of schedule.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s seat Rae Bareli is on course to meet the 2012 deadline, but her son Rahul has fallen behind in the race. Sultanpur, the Uttar Pradesh district where Rahul’s seat Amethi falls, is expected to meet the target in 2015.

L.K. Advani’s seat Gandhinagar is five years behind schedule. But the BJP leader, who lost the race for Prime Minister, can claim he is at least on the way to winning the toilet battle with Manmohan Singh.

Residents of Kamrup, the Assam district that is the Prime Minister’s official home as Rajya Sabha member, will have to wait till 2030 when they can hope to feel at home while relieving themselves.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s constituency Murshidabad, Bengal, will miss the deadline by just a year. So will home minister P. Chidambaram’s seat Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu.

But they have performed far better than labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge, law minister Veerappa Moily and minister for food processing industries Subodh Kant Sahay. After Azad, the trio are the worst performers. Kharge’s Gulbarga (Karnataka) will have to wait till 2055 for total sanitation, Sahay’s constituency Ranchi till 2035 and Moily’s Chikkballapur 2034.

WaterAid’s projections are based on current toilet coverage in the district and the annual rate of construction. However, the assessment has not covered urban areas.

“The idea to monitor the performance of the sanitation programme in the constituencies of the Union cabinet ministers is to drive home the point that political will and commitment to this fundamental need is critical to overall human development,” says the report.

“... we want to make aware the public about the importance of this critical human need and how our policy makers treat it in their own home turfs.”

Looks like many of them need to tie up quite a few “loos” ends.

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