The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mind sanitation, or forget ration cards
What you lose...
...If you don’t have a toilet certificate:
• Cannot open bank accounts
• Cannot apply for loans
• Cannot procure birth or death certificates
• Cannot get a ration card
• Cannot get a driving licence

Siliguri, Jan. 31: Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad (SMP) is going into overdrive to create awareness on the use of toilets among the 55,000 households in the 22 gram panchayats under it.

Elements of compulsion have also been introduced in the propagation and, as a last resort, SMP officials said today, several restrictions would be imposed on the availability of government facilities if the awareness drives go unheeded by April/May this year.

“We are going in for a multi-pronged approach and utilising almost every department in a bid to convince the people of the need to adopt hygienic sanitation methods,” said Mani Thapa, the sabhadhipati of the mahakuma parishad. “It is a difficult task to change age-old habits but it is not impossible.”

Having begun work a little over two years ago, the SMP has had a comparatively start to the implementation of Total Sanitation Programme (TSP) under the Sarva Swastha Abhiyan of the central government. “Villages in neighbouring states and even in East Midnapore have been declared ‘nirmal grams’ (clean villages) as they have had a head start,” said Pascal Minj, the saha-sabhadhipati of SMP.

The initial proposal was to introduce the restrictions from February, but it was decided at a recent meeting that people needed time to get to know and become convinced about the necessity to have a toilet in every home. “We have deferred the implementation of the restrictions by three months,” Minj said.

Once imposed, the gram panchayats, banks and other agencies will be told not to entertain applicants asking for various services unless they produce a “toilet certificate” or a family identity card issued only if the household has a toilet. Under the TSP, there are several types of toilet schemes available at different costs. A BPL family can avail of a Rs 250 subsidy from the government, Minj said.

“Using open fields is unhygienic and can lead to the spread of diseases. This is the main message that is being spread at all the meetings we are holding in the villages,” Thapa said. “The meetings can be of informal nature, education/school gatherings or even contractors speaking to labourers.”

A sanitation week was held recently in all the four blocks in the SMP area. Primary teachers are being told to involve students through the newly-introduced environment classes while students about to enter high schools are being told that they might find it difficult to get admission to Class V if they don’t have a toilet at home.

“Of the four blocks, the target of households in Phansidewa is the highest, while so far, there has been a good response from homes in some of the gram panchayats in Matigara,” the sabhadipathi added.

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