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Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 16:16 UK

Flushed out for failing to flush

By Faisal Mohammad Ali
BBC News, Bhopal

Woman outside a modern toilet
In rural India, modern toilets are often a luxury

Officials in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh are being removed from their elected seats for not constructing flushing toilets.

Bilaspur district administration says it has sacked about 100 members for not building toilets in their homes.

Many people in India do not have access to flush toilets or other latrines.

But under new local laws, representatives are obliged to construct a flush toilet within a year of being elected.

Those who fail to do so face dismissal.

The law making toilets mandatory has been introduced in several Indian states as part of the "sanitation for all" drive by the Indian government.

The programme aims to eradicate the practice of open defecation, which is common in rural and poor areas of India.

Special funds are made available for people to construct toilets to promote hygiene and eradicate the practice of faeces collection - or scavenging - which is mainly carried out by low-caste people.

Officials face court

Officials in Janjgir-Champa and several other districts around the state say they have inspected the homes of local representatives.

Man stands outside his new toilet block

One official said they had asked some members to produce photographs of the "mandatory" toilets. He said those who could not were likely to receive dismissal letters.

Representatives are able to appeal against losing their jobs.

Dhananjay Devangan, who works in a court which has processed several such cases, describes the process as "quasi-judicial".

"Each complaint is heard and disposed off separately," he said.

In some cases, some members have been able to construct toilets during the course of the hearing and have been let off.

But once a member is dismissed, the state election commission has to conduct a by-election to fill the vacant post.

State social welfare Director PP Soti said that the law was not intended to remove or dismiss elected representatives, but to encourage them to be an example to others in society.

Chhattisgarh state claims to have funded flush toilets for more than a million families in recent years.

Officials say the majority of local representatives have already constructed flush toilets in their homes.


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