RAIPUR: At times even a zeal for a good cause can land a bureaucrat in trouble. His transfer is then seen as the “right solution”. Jagdish Sonkar, a 2013-batch IAS officer who is the CEO of Dhamtari district in Chhattisgarh, was transferred in the same capacity to Maoist-affected Dantewada in south Bastar after his circular asking for routine inspection of usage of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission was “misinterpreted”.
It is believed that a state minister whose constituency falls in Dhamtari district sought action against Sonkar over his directive, which went viral on social media.
“The circular was misinterpreted and the officer’s intention misconstrued. People got the wrong idea from the circular though I withdrew it later,” Dhamtari Collector C R Prasanna told The Sunday Standard.
Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, low-cost urinals were constructed in 355 schools under ‘Mission@355’ in all gram panchayats of Dhamtari district. Sonkar instructed that all toilets should be functional, used and be properly maintained. He instructed that inspection should be carried out and people’s behavioural change was to be monitored and shared on WhatsApp. An official notification was issued to all janpad panchayats and education officers of all the four blocks of the district.
Objections were raised by a teachers’ group that the order might infringe upon privacy of students using the toilets and that the teachers are not supposed to do this, following which the circular went viral.
Through 355 schools, 17,000 students were initially targeted and the plan was to be replicated in the remaining schools.
“I issued the directive believing that childhood is the best time to bring about behavioural change, when the cleanliness habit also gets inculcated within the rural family,” Sonkar told The Sunday Standard.
Officials in Dhamtari claimed the intention was to monitor proper use of school toilets and “not to take pictures of students using them.”
“Lack of cleanliness, foul smell, lack of drainage and dirt with toilet spills make urinals unfit for use in government schools. The instruction was aimed with a vision, but the officer was removed,” a senior official said.