How Swachh Is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan In Odisha?

Any scheme, if marred by allegations of scams and irregularities, raises concerns not only about the efficacy of the scheme but also about the concerned government's credibility which seems to be the case in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Mahatma Gandhi had said ‘sanitation is more important than independence’ and riding on this ideology the NDA government introduced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to ensure a clean and open defecation-free India. However, alleged irregularities in the noble yojana have raised eyebrows over its effective implementation in Odisha.

The case in point here is the allegations that have came to the fore in Saintala block of Bolangir district. One Paradeshi Sahu of Junanimal village in Bolangir district is a beneficiary under the scheme. His name is there in the beneficiary list and money has also been withdrawn in his name. However, Sahu is unaware of the development.

“Though my name is there in the list, I have no toilet. I am not aware who has taken my money; God will give him the punishment for such cheating,” said Paradeshi Sahu.

Similar allegations have been brought in case of one Dilip Behera of Ghunsara village in the district. Though Dilip died four years ago, his name is there in the beneficiary list. “My father died four years ago. My father’s name is there in the beneficiary list and money has also been withdrawn, but we haven’t got any money. We don’t know who has withdrawn the money,” said Ajay Behera, Dilip’s son.

Meanwhile, the executive engineer of the Water and Sanitation Department, Bolangir, said that action will be taken if any such allegations are found to be true. “We have got the list of names where such irregularities have been alleged. We have sent the list to the BDO. An investigation will be done and if the allegations are found true, we will definitely take appropriate action,” said the concerned department’s executive engineer, Saroj Satpathy.

On the other hand, the data shown by the government speaks a different story. As per the Swachh Bharat website, 98 per cent beneficiaries have been covered so far. However, the government geo-tagging data shows it as 71 per cent.

Besides, the government has reportedly scrapped the appointment of 114 contractual workers in the water and sanitation department in the last 15 years and has started appointing new people through an outsourcing agency. Protesting the layoff, the 114 retrenched workers have resorted to demonstration and even moved the court.

“We have moved to court against the decision of the government. We are now being forced by the T&M Private Limited to withdraw the case and return through a private company,” alleged Prasant Sahu, president of water and sanitation workers’ association.

Meanwhile, the BJP and the Congress have targeted the Odisha government for its alleged callousness towards the effective implementation of the yojana. “Toilets have not been constructed anywhere. The Central government money has been utilized only on pen and paper. And this is the way Naveen babu is running the State,” said senior Congress leader, Sura Routray.

“The State government has been making tall claims on 5Ts for effective governance, but we have been demanding the government to first follow just one T and upload all the information on the official websites of various departments. But, is the government doing it?” BJP spokesperson, Golak Mohapatra questioned.