Himachal Pradesh pips Kerala to become first big swachh state


21 Jun 2013
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In culmination of a close battle over the last few months, the 'Dev Bhumi' of Himachal Pradesh has tipped 'God's own country' Kerala by just four days to become the first big state to go completely Swachh as per Prime Minister Narendra Modi 's plan of achieving a clean open defecation free India by 2019.

Kerala had announced its intention well in advance, which was in August by the new Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to go fully Swachh by November 1, its formation anniversary. All its state machinery targets were aligned to the same effect. As of today, its achievement of toilet construction targets stand at 99.89%. Himachal Pradesh led by Congress' Virbhadra Singh, and alive to Kerala's targets, has out-run the southern state by 0.11% points to achieve its 100% target of cleanliness as on Thursday evening, burning literally the mid-night oil before Diwali to do so. Union Rural Development Narendra Tomar, Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda and Union Secretary of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Parameshwaran Iyer will be in Shimla along with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh on Friday to announce Himachal Pradesh as the second Open Defecation Free (ODF) state after Sikkim.

It is not that Kerala did not realise that Himachal Pradesh was breathing down its neck. Local reports had emerged earlier this month that Kerala was trying to advance its target date of going ODF by ten days to beat Himachal Pradesh and that the state chief secretary had also asked district collectors to speed up the construction of toilets - the target of which stood at nearly 1.75 lakh. However, Himachal Pradesh won the race by completing its household toilets target today as well as all its districts being declared ODF. "While Sikkim was the first state to go ODF and had got on the job way back in 2003, the real race was on which will be the first big state to go ODF. Both states competed hard...it is an example for other states which are way behind targets," a top central government official said.

States like Uttrakhand and Haryana are also catching up to become ODF by March next year and stand at 89.87% and 87.57% of their targets of household toilet construction. However, the Swachh Bharat project is overall lagging behind and may struggle to comply with the October 2, 2019 target for the entire country as fixed by the Prime Minister over two years ago. The PM had recently also expressed his concern over the same as only 56 out of the 683 districts in the country have gone ODF so far while only 1.11 lakh out of 6.38 lakh villages in the country have turned ODF so far. 25 months, out of the five-year target fixed to convert India into totally ODF by building 12 Cr toilets, are already over but only 2.5 Cr toilets are in place. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are particularly lagging in the Swachh Bharat project - Bihar is the worst with just 25% target completion so far.

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