Published: 28th September 2020
The curious case of phantom toilets: CAG report finds 286 school toilets marked 'constructed' on paper don't exist
The recent CAG report says that 286 school toilets that were marked as constructed on paper are non-existent. While 200 of them are not constructed, 8 are partially constructed
All's good on paper. However, in reality, things do not look quite pleasant, suggests the latest Comptroller and Auditor General of India report on the construction of toilets in schools in the country. The report says that 286 school toilets that were marked as constructed on paper are non-existent. As part of the survey, 2,695 toilets were surveyed between September 2017 and January 2018. While 200 of them are not constructed, eight are partially constructed. This could be the reason for the high per cent of female student dropout rate in Indian schools.
"The non-existing and partially constructed toilets constituted 11 per cent of toilets in the audit sample," reads the report. At the same time, 83 other toilets have only been identified for construction. Another shocking aspect is that of the constructed toilets, 30 per cent of them are not in use, mostly due to lack of running water, cleaning arrangements and damages. "In 1,679 out of 2,326 constructed toilets (72 per cent), running water facility inside the toilets was not available," reads the report.
Inaccessibility to toilets was always cited as a reason behind the number of female student dropouts in Indian schools. At the same time, a 2014 report by an NGO Dasra found that nearly 23 million girls drop out of school annually due to a lack of proper menstrual hygiene management facilities. Previously, while talking to EdexLive, Jack Sim, the founder of the World Toilet College said that "355 million women and girls are still waiting for a toilet" in India.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Modi, during his first Independence Day address, said "I want to make a beginning today itself and that is − all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. Only then our daughters will not be compelled to leave schools midway.” The Menstrual Hygiene Management guidelines by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation too state that "Every adolescent school girl must have access to a separate toilet with private space for cleaning, washing. This includes access to adequate and sustained water supply and soap."
"The government is all about talk and no action. The same Modi government couldn't improve the toilet situation in Gujarat schools in 2014. That way, the current situation is not quite surprising," says Arjun Unnikrishnan, founder of Red Cycle, an organisation that works to promote menstrual awareness. "The government only talks about menstruation and sanitary napkins. It doesn't do anything on the ground," he adds. He also says that he has seen toilets that are constructed for namesake, without water, doors or pits.
Also, 75 per cent of the toilets were not maintained hygienically. "As per MHRD norms under SVA, the toilets were required to be cleaned at least once daily. The audit noticed that proper maintenance/ sanitation was lacking in 1,812 toilets out of 2,326 toilets. The audit also noticed that 715 toilets out of 1,812 toilets were found un-cleaned and for the balance 1,097 toilets the frequency of cleaning was from twice in a week to once in a month, which was not as per norms," it reads.
A 2014 CAG report on school toilets in Gujarat found out that 45 of 300 of these toilets were in an unusable condition. In 2015, it noted that 30 per cent of toilets built between 2013 and 2014 were defunct. In the Union Budget for the financial year 2020-21, the Finance Minister announced that the total allocation for Swachh Bharat Mission is Rs 12,300 crore, which was Rs 344 crore lesser than what was allocated in the previous financial year.