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Saswat Singhdeo

Bhadrak: While the Odisha government boasts of improving its sanitation coverage and achieve Swacch Bharat Mission target, some residents of Bhatapada panchayat of Bhadrak have accused the government of embezzling funds in the name of constructing toilets.

It may be noted that Bhatapada is the same panchayat which was awarded with Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) in 2008.  A ‘Nirmal Gram’ is an ‘Open Defecation-Free’ village, where all houses, schools and anganwadis have sanitary facilities like toilets and the community is aware of the importance of personal hygiene.

“Not a single toilet has been constructed in our village under the Swacch Bharat Mission scheme which is why we are forced to send our women and girls outside to attend nature's call,” said Mahagobinda Mahallick, a resident of Serapur village under Bhatapada panchayat.

“The government officials are misusing the funds meant for construction of toilets,” another resident of Serapur, Surendra Mahallick alleged.

More than 100 residents of the panchayat have written a letter to Union Minister of Rural Development alleging that the State government has embezzled funds supposed to be used for construction of toilets in the area.

After repeated requests before the local administration went in vain, some residents also filed a petition in the Orissa High Court in connection with the issue.

Taking cognizance of the allegations of the villagers, the Orissa HC directed the State government to take necessary steps to resolve the grievances of the villagers. As per reports, Secretary of Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Department, Deo Ranjan Kumar Singh on Tuesday met residents of Bhatapada and held discussions with them and reviewed the relevant documents related to the alleged scam.

Asked about it, minister Singh said, "I have asked the BDO to conduct an enquiry and give us a report. Those who don’t have toilets will be enrolled in the new scheme."

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