Four years into the Swachh Bharat programme, Bihar has finally given up on a model of only allowing community-based incentives for toilet construction. Two weeks ago, the State switched to allowing individual household-based incentives, according to Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation. His department is responsible for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan-Grameen, which aims to end the practice of open defecation in rural India. With just over a year to go for the October 2, 2019, deadline to become open defecation free (ODF), Bihar is the second worst performing State, lagging behind with almost 66% coverage. Only Odisha, with 62.5% coverage, fares worse.“Earlier, in Bihar, the whole village needed to be declared ODF. Only then was the compensation given,” explained Mr. Iyer on the sidelines of a press briefing on Thursday. “Now, whenever you build your own toilet, you get paid.”Under the Swachh Bharat programme, States were given freedom to tweak the way the scheme was implemented. Every household building a toilet was eligible for an incentive of ₹12,000. Some States paid the incentive only when the construction was over, while others paid it in parts during various stages of construction. Several States also used neighbourhood peer pressure to increase the speed of toilet construction, by declaring that no one would get paid until the entire village was declared ODF.“It worked in Haryana,” pointed out Mr. Iyer.However, different economic realities in Bihar resulted in frustrated villagers waiting for their neighbours to construct toilets before payment was sanctioned. The change in strategy could now help Bihar catch-up, said Mr. Iyer.
Eight Army personnel and two civilians were injured when militants triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) fitted in a vehicle near an Army patrol in the militancy-hit Pulwama district of south Kashmir on Monday, officials said.They said the multi-vehicle patrol of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles was moving on the Arihal-Pulwama road when the IED was detonated, injuring the personnel travelling in a bullet-and-mine-proof Casper vehicle.The site of the IED blast is 27 km from the area where a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a suicide bomber on February 14 in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.Major killedIn another incident, an Army officer and a militant were killed during an encounter in Anantnag.A Srinagar-based police spokesman said Major Ketan Sharma, 32, from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, was injured when a search party of the security forces encircled hiding militants and came under “heavy fire” at Badoora village in Anantnag’s Achabal area in the morning.“Sharma was evacuated to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries,” said the police.Two other Army officials, including Major Rahul Verma, suffered injuries in the day-long exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces in Anantnag. “One militant was killed in the ongoing operation. His body was retrieved and his identity and affiliation are being ascertained,” said the police.Referring to the IED blast, Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said it was “a failed attempt” to attack the mobile vehicle patrol of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles. “Alertness of the patrol party helped to minimise the damage,” said the spokesman.The police spokesman confirmed that six soldiers were injured in the IED blast, which inflicted severe damage on the Army vehicle.The attack on the Army vehicle comes days after Pakistan intelligence agencies reportedly shared information on the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’s plans to carry out a major attack using a vehicle to “avenge” its chief Zakir Musa in Pulwama on May 24.(With inputs from PTI)