Shopian: More than two years ago, Shopian was the first district in Kashmir which was declared open defecation free (ODF). This declaration was made after the authorities claimed to have constructed 29,417 Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) and 30 Community Sanitary Complexes (CSC) in various Panchayat segments. However, scores of households in Sedow area are still practising open defecation.
Villagers of Kasana locality, dominated by a Scheduled Tribe (ST) community, in Cheki Sedow told Kashmir Reader that only one percent of the village, comprising of over 200 households, has the facility of latrines. The rest 99 percent have no option but to go for open defecation, they said.
Muhammad Yousuf Kasana, a local, said that not only their locality but hundreds of other tribal families in the area are also without such facilities. “Authorities are yet to release the funds of even the few latrines that villagers built, on the promise that the government will bear half the cost,” he said.
Haseen, a woman resident of the village, said that be it children, elderly or women, all go outside for open defecation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014 and set October 2019 as the deadline for achieving the target of ODF India. The subsequent sustainability of ODF is also one of the main goals of the mission.
The Sedow area is situated some six kilometers from Shopian town, to its south west. Many water bodies here, like Rambiara and Sanglo rivers, have been so contaminated due to the open defecation that a year ago an epidemic of Hepatitis E broke out, with more than 600 cases reported in different areas of the district in 2018-2019.
Locals from the area said that the government launched many schemes for tribal people and particularly women, but their area was ignored even in those. “All of the households in our area are under Scheduled Tribe category. The funds of government schemes were diverted to rich people and those who were deserving were totally ignored,” Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Cheki Sedow, said.
Inhabitants said that similar problems are being faced by the villagers of Cheki Amshipora where only 20 percent of the population has access to latrines; the rest still go out in the open for nature’s call.
An official from the Block Development Office here said that the population was counted as per the 2011 census and once there is a rise in population in the records, it can be covered under a fresh scheme.
When asked if there has been a population explosion in the area, he said that there has been a “1,000 percent” rise in population. However, he was not responsible for the area, he said, and mentioned that the local Block Development Officer’s post is vacant.
Assistant Commissioner Development, Shopian, Hilal Ahmad did not respond to phone calls from this reporter.