India, Bihar: if you want to be elected, get a toilet first

First we had “no toilet, no bride“, now you need a toilet to be elected in India. At least that’s  what chief minister Nitish Kumar is proposing for his state Bihar. He made the announcement on World Toilet Day, 19 November.

Candidates who don’t have a toilet in their home will not be allowed to contest rural (panchayat) and urban local body elections in the state.  The chief minister said he would ensure that relevant legislation (Bihar Panchayati Raj Act) would be amended to make this possible.

Bihar is not the first place to use elections to promote toilet construction. Back in 2010, Surkhet district in Nepal made it mandatory for candidates in local elections to have a toilet in their house. Nepal’s Kalikot district took it one step further by demanding that residents showed proof of possessing a toilet in order to obtain a citizenship certificate.

According to the 2011 Census, 82.4% of the rural population and 30.3 of the urban population in Bihar have no toilet. From 2006 t0 2010, the available budget for sanitation has been systematically under-spent (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Discrepancy between total funds available and funds spent. Trémolet and Binder, 2013, 12

Fig. 1 Discrepancy between total funds available and funds spent. Trémolet and Binder, 2013, 12

Bihar Chief minister Kumar said that his aim was to ensure that that every household in Bihar has a toilet by 2020. Another initiative that the chief minister is introducing to achieve this goal is to change the way that subsidies are paid: instead of having to wait until the toilet is finished, beneficiaries will get the 4,600 rupee (US$ 74) subsidy during the construction of the toilet itself.

Trémolet, S. and Binder, D., 2013. Evaluating the effectiveness of public finance for household sanitation in the state of Bihar, India. London, UK: WaterAid and SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity). Available at the WaterAid and SHARE web sites.

Source:

  • Alok Gupta, No toilet at home? Can’t contest local body polls in Bihar, says Nitish. Down to earth, 20 Nov 2013
  • Surabhi Malik, Now Nitish Kumar stakes claim to ‘toilets first’ policy. NDTV, 20 Nov 2013

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