Making India Open Defecation-Free Needs More Than Constructing Toilets

Posted by Vidya Bhooshan Singh in Society
January 24, 2018

Sustainability in rural sanitation is a big challenge for policymakers, non-governmental organisations as well as community workers.

The prime focus of the central government is to ensure 100% open defecation free (ODF) villages by financially supporting or creating the infrastructure for every household of the country. At some level, they have succeeded with more than 75% households reported to have latrine facility at their home. The government has focused on the creation of infrastructure, and the declaration of ODF villages on their websites without considering the usage of these toilets and the actual ground reality.

The condition of these ODF villages is pathetic and discouraging. It is very common to see a large number of un-used toilets in these villages. The government has followed the baseline survey of 2012 to construct or released the money against the number of households updated on the integrated management system, but the issue is that there is a huge gap in the database and actual households in the present.

The first major gap was in not covering all of the households to provide latrine subsidy or incentives. The second gap is in the usage of these toilets. Is it only about the coverage of construction or its usage too?

Unfortunately, there is no successful mechanism to ensure the usage of these toilets. There are many factors responsible for ensuring the use of toilets in which, technicality and quality of the construction are very important. It can be seen that the quality of the toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin(SBM-G) through PRI or Village Water Sanitation Committee (VWSC) is very discouraging. They have not completed the project either, but these toilets have been updated on the IMIS, and the government have declared them to be it ODF villages. On the ground, the beneficiaries are still defecating in the open. In a rural setup, usage of the toilets cannot be ensured by only constructing them because it is a subject matter of behaviour change of the community.

Coping with these issues of behaviour change, TataTrusts and OneDrop foundation has drafted multidisciplinary Shows (MDS) under Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) to implement through Centre for MicroFinance(#CmF) to cater the tribal communities of southern Rajasthan. This show has been designed on the basis of local issues, languages, culture and customs. CmF has organised more than 40 shows in with an average audience of 1,200 to 1,500 community members. There is a good response from the community towards realising the usage of toilets, and it has mass impact on the community to adopt sustainable sanitation practices in the community. This is very important to create a need for these facilities.

There is need to focus on the community-led behaviour change communication processes and continuous follow-ups for the same to encourage and ensure the sustainability of in rural sanitation.