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    December 31st set as new deadline for urban India to get ODF status

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    The Centre has set December 31 as deadline for urban India to achieve the status of “open defecation free” (ODF), even as some local bodies in West Bengal remain uncooperative in the BJP government’s flagship initiative.

    On October 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared rural India Open Defecation Free (ODF). However, 40 urban local bodies of West Bengal are standing in the way of urban India being declared ODF.

    The ministry of housing and urban affairs, the nodal ministry for Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), however, has now set an internal deadline of December 31 to meet the target.

    Swachh Bharat Mission director VK Jindal told sources that the ministry will hold a meeting with West Bengal chief secretary and top officials on November 5 to discuss the roadblocks in achieving ODF status. A workshop would also be conducted to explain different technologies and best practices that could be beneficial in meeting the target in two months, he added.

    This would be the first meeting in 10 months between the Centre and West Bengal on Swachh Bharat Mission. The last meeting had taken place in January earlier this year. ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’, the BJP government’s flagship social welfare programme, has been a bone of contention between the Centre and the Bengal state government.

    While the state has walked out of several programmes including ‘Ayushman Bharat’, it has said that its own ‘Nirmal Bangla Mission’ predates the Centre’s ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’. The ministry has been keeping regular contact with state government over implementation but the status has not changed over the last few months.

    According to the ministry’s statistics, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Goa and West Bengal were the slow starters.

    However, over the last one year, UP, Bihar, Odisha and Goa move fast and achieved good results. Goa, which had been lagging as it had not finalised the design of its community toilets till June, has already been certified ODF.

    On October 2, the ministry had expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare urban India as ODF despite West Bengal’s record, but only rural India was declared ODF.

    A senior ministry official said, “As far as the ministry is concerned, we have achieved our target on October 2. West Bengal has never cooperated. But we will still pursue the state government.”

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