THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 November 2018 (Tackling India’s open defecation problem)

Tackling India’s open defecation problem

Mains Paper 3: Governance
Prelims level: Open defecation problem
Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services


  •  The ambition behind and success to date of the Swachh Bharat mission are laudable,
  •  It is at risk of unravelling unless it can ensure that India remains permanently open defecation free.
  •  The mission must bring about sustainable behavioural change through ‘System 2’ and ‘System 1’ drivers.

Milestone achieved by the Swachh Bharat Mission

  •  Advocates of the scheme rightly point to the number of toilets constructed and the number of villages that are declared open defecation free over 8 crore toilets and 5 lakh villages respectively whereas critics point to the low usage of the toilets constructed and question the truth behind open defecation free claims.
  •  The 2017 Swachh Survekshan survey conducted by the Quality Council of India reports that 62% of rural households now have a toilet.
  •  This is an increase of over 20 percentage points since 2014.
  •  The survey concludes that more than 90% of the individuals who had access to toilets were using them.
  •  Yet, stories continue to pour in, suggesting that the ground reality isn’t so rosy.
  •  The lengthy queues, lack of water supply and the poor communication in remote and tribal populations have all resulted in low uptake in areas where it is needed the most.
  •  Reports suggesting that the Jaipur Municipal Corporation hired an event management company to ‘persuade’ citizens to give feedback that would make the programme seem a success, raise further questions of the mission’s reliability. Similar findings have also been reported in Maharashtra and Gujarat, both declared as open defecation free states.

Tackling open defecation problem

  •  To mitigate open defecation, a simple but ingenious System 1 driver would be the building of public toilets in fields which people already use to defecate openly.
  •  Leveraging India’s recent growth in mobile connectivity and growth in constructed household toilets.
  •  It incentive programs for increased latrine use can also issue text message reminders, scheduled and framed to promote latrine usage at the same time and place each day.
  •  Strategic timing of key interventions can also go a long way in disrupting behaviour.
  •  It promoting the use of toilets during the monsoon, when people find it difficult to defecate openly, or launching new interventions during the outbreak of a disease,
  •  The people are when actively thinking about hygiene, are ways to ensure a new behaviour is developed.
  •  The initiatives creating an annual ritual, aligned with prevalent religious beliefs, when a village is declared open defecation free can ensure change is celebrated and thus, sustained in the long run.

Way forward

  •  For India to permanently eradicate open defecation, the Swachh Bharat Mission must adopt three pillars of support.
  •  The first must provide and maintain the infrastructure needed to aid toilet use.
  •  The second must motivate people to change behaviour towards toilet use and the third must harness cues and automatic habits to drive positive behaviour.
  •  It’s time policymakers start focusing on the third pillar, before the facade wobbles.


Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Prelims Questions:

Q.1) According to the ODF report of Swachh Bharat Mission, which state(s) has/have achieved ‘open
defecation free ‘status in the country?
a) Himachal Pradesh
b) Sikkim
c) Kerala
d) West Bengal

Answer: B

Mains Questions:
Q.1) Truly making India open defecation free requires a sustainable change in societal mindset and behavior. Critically analyse the statement.