Pumping money in just construction of toilets will not change the grim picture

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Social and behavioural changes are required for more toilet adoption, just pumping money in the construction of toilets will not change the Picture. Institute of Fiscal Studies, London is conducting a research study in Lucknow and Kanpur and are open to share results for Policy reforms

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, a proverb that traces its inception to ancient India, stands very ironical in the prevalent Indian health scenario.  The Indus Valley Civilization, was once the gold standard of sanitation infrastructure. Its extensive and efficient sewage system was a gift of knowledge to entire mankind. However history resides in books and has little relevance in the present times.

In 2008, World Health Organization (WHO) reported that India has the highest number of people practising open defecation in the world , around 60 million and is followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Since then Central Government pumped millions for the construction of the toilets.


Soon after assuming charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would become open defecation-free by October 2019. It was an ambitious target considering that 524 million Indians (till June 2017) defecate in the open every day, according to the UN figures. The last three consecutive years saw quantum jump in budget outlay for the rural component of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). The allocation to the urban component of the programme has remained same in the last two years. (see table). According to the Centre’s reply to a question in the Lok Sabha last December, 260 districts have been declared Open Defecation Free.  Over 300,000 villages have achieved this status, says the government’s SBM Rural portal.

In 2018 government decalred total 11 states/UTs namely Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Meghalaya as Open Defecation Free states.

Budget allocation for Sanitation Programme

Is constructing toilets enough?

A study conducted by the Institute of Development Studies, Water Aid and Praxis, which was published in October 2017, claimed that several ODF villages are not free from open defecation. In all the surveyed villages of UP and Rajasthan, the researchers found open defecation prevalent and even identified the areas of open defecation in few of them. In one of the villages of Pali, where 900 households were surveyed, they found that the total current usage of toilets was only 1 per cent.  While in two villages of Shamli, it was 63 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

Morsel India also visited villages in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and cities like Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi. They found smilar situation. Brijesh Singh visited Phadki Mal (Mandala, MP) and Gwari Rayat (Annuppur, MP) and found several issues like people are going to 4 KMs and they were unable to bring water to toilets. In summer when teprature touch the 48 degree centegrade, no one can use tiny toilets built in the villages. Similar issues he found in cities as well, some toilets non-fuctioned within 2-3 months and commuity toilets are not in very good condition.

In response to these challenges Institute of Fiscal Studies, London(IFS) in a joint initiative with FINISH society & Morsel Research and Development (Pvt Ltd) a Lucknow based Research consultancy is working on a project titled ‘Community toilets in slums: Willingness to pay for and usage of community toilets’ in select communities of Lucknow and Kanpur.”

Antonella Bancalari

Antonella Bancalari a PhD Researcher from London school of economics in her conversation with the2is.com acknowledges the “Swachch Bharat abhiyaan” but  also advocates that toilet interventions must move beyond constructing  toilets, and instead should focus on engaging the social and economic factors that will lead to toilet adoption. “Just pumping a lot of money in the system cannot improve sanitation, sludge  management and behavior” she further added.

What the project aims at?

During her visit to Lucknow, Antonella shared some details of the project, “We are conducting this research to understand  the usage and the demand side of the community toilets. Through this study, we are trying to push the improvement in the quality of community toilets, and also the attitude of community toilet users towards sanitation”, said Antonella.

Here’s a talk with Researchers from Institute Fiscal Studies, London Antonella and Alex  who were in Lucknow for their research study titled “Community toilets in slums: Willingness to pay for and usage of community toilets in select communities of Lucknow and Kanpur.”

Why Lucknow and Kanpur?

The researchers have chosen Lucknow and Kanpur as there area for study majorly because of the prevalence of community toilets and the dense population residing in the two cities, informs Antonella.

Antonella who originally is a resident of Peru mentions that “there’s a lot of similarity between today’s India and the 20 years back Peru, in terms of open defecation and sludge management”. “Rapid growth of population is one of the major challenges the middle-income countries are facing in the present times, installing onsite sanitation treatment plant are required for sludge management” she further added.

Antonella’s primary field of interests includes Population study development economics and sanitation and likes comparing cultures. Antonella while talking over feminism change in India said that “Before visiting India I had the feeling that women here are only confined within the four walls of their houses, but it really felt great to see women gaining more ground in the society”.

Institute of fiscal studies, London (IFS)mainly aims at promoting the development of effective fiscal policy through the establishment of rigorous independent research. IFS in the past has successfully opened up debate about public policy to a wider audience and has greatly influenced policy decision making. This Project by the IFS mainly aims at understanding the demand, supply scale and political ecology while paying attention to how poverty, inequality and access to resources act as constraints to sanitation.

The grim reality

Globally, Diarrhea is the fourth biggest killer of children under the age of five, while India is its third biggest victim. Still people don’t relate diarrhea with Open defecation. IFS is asking questions related to cause of Diarrhea and very few people are aware about the true cause. Some women are saying it is due to milk and water.

Sazia, a resident of slum area near Purania Crossing in Lucknow starts to claim that Diarrhea and fever is because of the black magic done by her neighbor and another resident of same slum claiming that it is because of milk given to the kids. We should not give them milk.

A resident of slum are near Nishatganj Bandha in Lucknow is showing helplessness as community toilet from her home is around 1.5 KMs and they are forced to go for Open Defecation. They are very upset with men in the slum areas and pets like PIG and other animals.

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