Open Defecation Still Widespread Despite Government Claims to the Contrary: IZA Institute of Labour Economics Report
Households especially SC and STs were threatened and coerced to build toilets.
A report studying four north Indian states has stated that open defecation still exists, despite the Modi-led government’s claims that Swachh Bharat Mission has eradicated the practice.
The study by IZA Institute of Labour Economics brings to light the ugly truth of the rosy picture of Swachh Bharat Mission that the BJP government portrays. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh were surveyed.
Some villages have stopped implementing the program while activities have not started in others or are still ongoing. People were threatened and coerced to build toilets, with SC and ST households reporting more such incidents.
Open defecation still a reality:
Per the study, despite the government’s claims that open defecation has been entirely or largely eliminated, the practice has not been eliminated from any of the districts studied. Rural population who defecate in the open is nearly as large as the number of people who do not. Somewhere between 42% and 57% rural people defecate in the open. However, about 23% people who own a latrine, still defecate in the open. This percentage sis not change between 2014 and 2018.
Swachh Bharat Mission was not implemented uniformly:
The Centre instituted Swachh Bharat Mission, but it is implemented by the state. The study reported different states used different means to implement the project.
Some states allowed households to construct latrines that were subsidized by the government while others employed government contractors to build the latrines for the households.
The study reports contractor-constructed latrines are typically less well-constructed than latrines that households build for themselves. People in households that received money to build their own latrine were almost 10 percent less likely to defecate in the open.
As per the study in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, some villages are no longer implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission. They are neither providing funds for toilet construction nor encouraging latrine use. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Swachh Bharat Mission activities have not started in some villages and are ongoing in others.
Coercion and threats used to force people to accept Swachh Bharat Mission:
The study reports that coercion and threats were routinely used to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission. Threats were used to achieve toilet construction, and in some cases, for using the toilets as well. Methods of coercion included harassment, fines, denial of public benefits, and in some cases even detention by police. The study noted that SC and ST households were more likely to face coercion and threats.
The study suggested that the next rural sanitation policy should choose a different course of action for its implementation. Coercive tactics need to be stopped and the use of latrine should be encouraged. It also said that social attitudes need to be changed to eliminate open defecation.