— B. Chandrashekhar, IAS
The location was Korea Development Institute (KDI) in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. In a conference room full of officials from India and South Korea, a short film was being screened, telling a success story of how a village was made open defecation free (ODF). Some faces among the Koreans looked lit up in smile and surprise as they saw men and women carrying mugs in their hand and going to the fields to relieve themselves. The film also showed the hard efforts made by the government officers in making the village ODF in course of time. Most of the Indian faces carried a look of shame and some even frowned at the Indian presenter for exposing such a bleak and ‘dirty’ side of our country. As part of the Phase-III training programme for the IAS in July 2010, I was sitting in that conference hall, and had no different feeling than others.
All the Indian officers went through a collective feeling of shame. Millions of women in our rural India go through this feeling every day. The fact is, our country, despite making rapid strides in economic and technological development, remains a country of people who go out in the open to defecate. One would easily see a house with a Direct-to-Home (DTH) Disc and a sparkling motorcycle in front, but having no toilet. Not that this realisation hasn’t dawned upon us or on those who matter. The government pledged to make our country free from open defecation as it launched Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999 when the Central Rural Sanitation Programme was restructured. TSC was supposed to be demand driven and people centred, clichés so commonly found attached to many other ambitious government initiatives.
More than a decade of implementation of the campaign doesn’t offer much to smile as most of the people still continue to defecate in open. It is on the governments’ priority list, there is no dearth of money for the campaign, dedicated staff is in place at the field level for its implementation and yet we seem to be far away from achieving the objective of making the country ODF by 2017. There are reasons. Unlike most other programmes which involve one way implementation (i.e. government machinery implementing the programme) and do not depend on the user to claim success, TSC’s success absolutely and fundamentally depends on the user and not on the government machinery. Government may get toilets constructed in the households but if the toilets are not used by the people, they are of no use. Hence, making TSC successful is not about constructing toilets, it’s about changing peoples’ habit and mindset. Unless their habit is not changed, the toilets built under TSC will continue to be used for storing spades, cow dung cakes and fire wood or at best remain locked.
Information, Education and Communication (IEC) is the most significant aspect of the campaign and unfortunately, also, generally the most neglected aspect. IEC must precede the toilet construction stage. It should be used to create awareness about the benefits of using toilets and about the hazards of open defecation. IEC must create a felt need for toilets among the rural people. One of the biggest mistakes being made is alluring people with the subsidy component (Rs. 3000 per household for a BPL family) and starting construction of toilets without convincing them about its use. The commonest alibi given for incomplete toilets is that the money given by the government isn’t sufficient to build a usable toilet. However, the subsidy component was never meant to meet the total cost of constructing a toilet. It was, in fact, meant to be given to the people as an incentive for choosing to build toilets in their houses.
Even if the toilets are completely constructed their use has been found to be much less, due mainly to the peoples’ habit to defecate in open. Lack of enough water for using toilet, use of faulty toilet seats, faulty construction of the toilets, absence of proper superstructure around the toilet, etc. are other main reasons for lesser use of toilets.
While the scene looks bleak, there are sparks of hope which keep it illuminated. In some places, innovative approaches have been adopted by the TSC functionaries to motivate people. In Satara District of Maharashtra, Panchayat Bulletin Boards carrying daily dose of toilet humour with unsavoury photographs of half-naked rich sugarcane farmers, businessmen and other villagers easing themselves in the open have been very effectively used. In some cases, TSC functionaries made use of the provisions of Section 115 and 117 of the Bombay Police Act that makes it illegal to ‘ease oneself in public’ and impose a fine up to Rs. 100, to convince some non-conformists.
Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh presenting the Sulabh Sanitation
Award to Anita Bai Narre in New Delhi. Due to her efforts, 100 out of 157 houses in
her in-laws village have toilets. (Photo Courtesy The Hindu)
A very novel example has recently come to light in the form of a 22 year young woman from a small and predominantly tribal village in Betul District of Madhya Pradesh. Anita, who lives in a small village called Jhitudhana (Ratanpur Gram Panchayat) about 50 Kms from the District Headquarters in Chicholi Block, set an example for millions of women who face the ignominy of going and defecating in the open. Anita stands for all of them.
Married to Shri. Shivram Narre, on May 13th 2011, she arrived at her in laws house carrying dreams of a newlywed. She was utterly disappointed to discover that her husband’s house didn’t have a toilet. She found it extremely difficult to go out in the open for answering the nature’s call. She requested her husband and in-laws to construct a toilet at home but her insistence fell on deaf ears. She told her husband that if the toilet is not built soon, she will be forced to leave the house and go to her parents place. Anita’s in-laws paid no heed assuming that it was just another gimmick by the new bride to get her wish fulfilled. Left with no option, showing courage generally unseen among village women, Anita within a few days of marriage, left her husband’s house and went to stay with her parents. Her husband and her in-laws, realising the seriousness of the issue and after coming under some criticism from some villagers, decided to build a toilet. Shivram approached the Gram Panchayat secretary and within a few days a toilet was sanctioned and constructed under TSC. Anita returned to her in-laws house only when the toilet was completed. This set a chain reaction in the village as other village women also insisted on having a toilet at their house. Thanks to Anita’s example, no other women had to leave their in-laws house as most of the families decided to construct toilets. The Village Water and Sanitation Committee suddenly became alive as many applications for toilets flowed in. The households that hitherto refused to build toilets in their houses started coming forward and demanding help for the same. In June 2011, there were only 50 individual toilets in the village under TSC and after Anita’s brave step, so far 280 toilets have been constructed in a village with 300 households. And the best thing about these toilets is that most of them are being used for the purpose they were built. The Village and the Panchayat is on way to become a ‘Nirmal Gram’ very soon.
Anita’s brave step to leave her in-laws house for a toilet has evoked much admiration for the lady and has enthused many. The Sulabh International has awarded Anita with a cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh for her exemplary effort. The District Administration of Betul has decided to make Anita a Brand Ambassador for Total Sanitation Campaign in the District. The State Government of Madhya Pradesh is thinking on similar lines. The District administration is enthusiastic about the prospect of using Anita’s example to motivate thousands of other families to build and use toilets.
So that our village women no longer have to face the public ignominy on a daily basis, so that they live a life of dignity, we need many more Anitas to come forward. TSC cannot succeed if it is run as just another government programme. It needs the involvement of Community and needs to be run by the community with government playing a supporting and motivating role. With more examples like Anita and public ownership of the campaign it is hoped that our country will become free from open defecation by 2017.
ECONOMICS OF INADEQUATE SANITATION
According to World Bank Report and Water and Sanitation Programmes (WSP) 2011, more people die from inadequate sanitation related causes in India every day. The Report shows that lack of adequate sanitation in India resulted in annual loss of $ 53.8 billion.
It has high economic costs. Therefore achieving adequate sanitation is imperative.
The author belongs to IAS and is currently Collector and District Magistrate, Betul, (M.P.)
From the Desk of Chief Editor
EMPLOYMENT NEWS LOOKS FORWARD
Employment News was launched in April 1976, with the blessings of
the then Prime Minister late Smt. Indira Gandhi. Since its launch, it
has been maintaining the unique position as the largest platform on
information relating to job opportunities and professional courses,
with probably, the largest combined monthly circulation of over 16
lakh copies in Hindi, English and Urdu language editions.
2. Today, India is a growth story, the driving force being its economy.
From jobs in traditional fields, the opportunities have now increased
manifold in new areas. India has been able to withstand the diverse
impact of the global crisis and general employment since 2009.
As the economy grew, so did Employment News. The weekly Journal
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relating to Union and State Governments, Public Sector Undertakings
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feature called “Incredible!North East” will be launched to strengthen
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1) According to Houselisting Census 2011 only 46.9% of total 246.6 million households have toilet facilities
— Of the rest, 3.2% use public toilets and 49.8 % ease themselves in the open.
— Over three quarters of households in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh defecate in open, while even developed states like Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka have 40-50% open defecation.
— Maharashtra appears to be the only state with same limited success at public toilets- 13% of rural Maharashtra and 21% of urban use public toilets.
2) Toilets are integral to dignity of women.
3) A national award for Sanitation and Water in the name of Maharashtra saint Sant Gudge Baba who strove towards service society through cleanliness.
4) In Haryana, villages have declared “No Toilets, No Bride”