A Development Debacle

The Lok Sabha was informed on Thursday that over 50 per cent of India's population practiced open defecation. Citing a report, the Sanitation Minister also provided state-wise figures, which mentioned Jammu & Kashmir as one of the worst-performing states, with about 67 % of its population practicing open defecation. Even as some skepticism has been expressed about the authenticity of the figures concerning Jammu & Kashmir, nevertheless, this state is not doing well either. A Baseline Survey of Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in 2015 reported that Jammu and Kashmir was among the worst performing states in India on its achievements in sanitation. The report said that out of 20.5 million households in the state more than 54 percent were without toilets. The survey observed that J&K was only ahead of Odhisa and Bihar. As per that study, out of Jammu and Kashmir's 20.5 lakh households, only 46 percent were reported to have toilets within their premises. The report had attributed this shameful situation, especially in the rural areas, to government's failure in initiating appropriate corrective measures. The other facet of this situation relates to the dismal resource utilization by the state, often messed up by corruption, poor decision making and competing political constituencies vying for funds at the local level. It is a shame that out of Rs 121 crore meant for sanitation program in 2014-15, J&K government happened to utilize only 5 percent. The situation in the state's public education system is no better. A report by the Department of School Education and Literacy (DISE), Union Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2015 said that out of 23,234 schools in J&K, 14,116 were without toilet facilities. Consequently, J&K figures at the 4th rank among the Indian states where a majority of government schools have either no toilets or dysfunctional toilets. Looking to the future, this situation needs to be rectified in J&K. Proper sanitation is crucial in ensuring development gains in health and life expectancy for both the adults and children, besides meeting other development goals in environmental protection and overall human wellbeing.

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