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Toilet ‘revolution’ hits bullseye

Ranchi, Nov. 27: Jharkhand, where most state-run schools lack basic hygiene and sanitation infrastructure, observed a belated World Toilet Day to focus on collective commitment to increase access to loos.

In an indication that the government meant business, after the recent Jharkhand High Court rap, a letter of intent, promising piped water and toilet at archer Deepika Kumari’s Ratu-Chatti home for Rs 4.62 lakh was handed over to her parents by the chief minister.

The function in Ranchi today — being held a week after November 19, the date designated by United Nations for global sanitation — was organised by the drinking water and sanitation department in association with Unicef.

“It is unfortunate that only eight per cent of households in the state have toilets,” chief minister Hemant Soren told the gathering of government officials and panchayat representatives. “We are not as conscious as we should be.”

Stressing that panchayat leaders had a decisive role to play, Hemant said that no elected member should become a mukhiya unless he/she had a toilet at home.

“Despite resources crunch, we have to set up toilets in every home. We will consider abolishing VAT on toilet (construction) materials,” he said.

Drinking water and sanitation minister Jai Prakash Patel said a toilet was an important index of human development and his department was trying its best to provide the same to people.

“Though 1.5 lakh new toilets have been built across the state so far and a few villages like Hutar (Ranchi) have become ODF (open defecation free), we plan to set up another one lakh by March 2014,” said Sudhir Prasad, additional chief secretary of the department.

Mamta, the director of secondary education, claimed that though toilets existed in 80 per cent state-run schools, barely half were in usable condition. “This is because there is no culture of using toilets among students,” she said.

Job Zachariah, the Unicef chief of Jharkhand, stressed that hygiene should begin at home. “The entire state can be ODF if every rural household has a loo,” he said, adding that the Unicef would provide all possible help to make the same happen.

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