Schools without handwashing facilities in 15 states, reveals CAG report

Over half of the government school toilets built by central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) do not have even the basic hand-washing facility, an even greater necessity in Covid-19 affected times, a survey of over 2,000 schools by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found.

Lack of running water, poor maintenance and unavailability of separate toilets for girls too continue to affect school students, according to the CAG report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

The report mentions that the HRD ministry (now named the Education ministry) had under the Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan (SVA) sought help of CPSEs for construction of toilets in government schools. Separate toilets for boys and girls have also been suggested under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE Act) norms.

As many as 53 CPSEs participated and constructed 1,40,997 toilets.

Seven CPSEs – NTPC, PGCIL, NHPC, PFC, REC, ONGC and CIL – constructed 1,30,703 toilets at a cost of Rs 2,162.60 crore. The CAG examined the construction of toilets by these seven by surveying 2,695 toilets across 2048 schools in 15 States.

According to the findings, the CPSEs did not construct 83 toilets though these toilets were identified by them for construction. Of the remaining 2,612 toilets which were reported to have been constructed, 200 toilets were not found constructed in the respective schools and 86 toilets were only partially built.

“The non-existing and partially constructed toilets constituted 11 % of toilets surveyed,” the CAG report pointed out.

Of the 1,967 coeducational schools, 99 schools had no functional toilets while 436 schools had only one functional toilet. The aim of providing separate toilets for boys and girls was not fulfilled in 535 schools, a sizeable 27 % of the sample.

Out of 2,326 constructed toilets surveyed, 691 or 30% were found not in use mainly due to lack of running water, lack of cleaning arrangements, damages or other reasons like use of toilets for other purposes.

During the survey, 1,679 (72 %) out of 2,326 constructed toilets were found without running water.

Further, hand washing facility was not available in 1,279 (55 per cent) out of 2,326 constructed toilets, according to the report.

There were also cases of defective construction of toilets, non-provision of foundation/ramp/staircase and damaged/overflowed leach pit etc.

The audit also found that proper maintenance or sanitation was not available in 1,812 out of 2,326 toilets. 715 out of 1,812 toilets were not being cleaned. 1,097 toilets were being cleaned twice in a week to once in a month.

Thus, 75 per cent of selected toilets were not maintained hygienically. Cases of non-provision of soap, bucket, cleaning agents and disinfectants in toilets and inadequate cleanliness of pathway were also noticed, the report found.

The CAG recommended the concerned ministries to look into the issue of non-existing and incomplete toilets that were claimed as constructed. It also asked the Navratanas and the ministries to address absence of basic amenities in the toilets like running water, hand wash facility, urinals, drainage of waste water, etc.

Since the audit survey covered 2 per cent of total toilets, the CPSEs are advised to review the remaining 98 per cent toilets and take appropriate action, the report said.

The report also found that the Power and Coal ministries as well as the ONGC declared construction of 1,30,703 toilets by the selected seven CPSEs on time (15 August 2015). However, as per MHRD data and the Swachhta Status Report (2016) of the National Sample Survey Office, the CPSEs constructed all the approved toilets as of 1 March 2016 and the number of toilets completed by these seven CPSEs was 1,19,530.

Comparison of the two reported figures indicated that the figures for number of toilets completed was overstated to the extent 11,173 toilets by power and coal ministries, it said.

The report also mentioned that pre-fabricated structures were used for constructing many toilets leading to extra expenditure, dilution in durability and non-compliance with direction.

The audit also found that some of the CPSEs appointed implementing agencies on nomination basis which was not in accordance with the directions. Further, the agencies were paid implementation charges at 10 to 15 per cent of completion cost which were high as compared to 2.5 to 3 per cent paid to State Government Agencies (SGAs) and involved an extra expenditure of `49.30 crore, the report said.

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