Tackling India’s open defecation
Mains Paper 3: Governance
Prelims level: Open defecation problem
Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- It’s time policymakers start focusing on the third pillar, before
the facade wobbles.
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
d) West Bengal
Q.1) Truly making India open defecation free requires a sustainable
change in societal mindset and behavior. Critically analyse the statement.