Health

Will India get freedom from open defecation?

Skyrocketing numbers on government websites project a doubtful picture of what has been achieved in one year. Read our Independence Day special

 
By Sushmita Sengupta
Last Updated: Wednesday 02 December 2015
Photo: Sushmita Sengupta
Photo: Sushmita Sengupta Photo: Sushmita Sengupta

We are nowhere near the sanitation target

The maiden Independence Day speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the premises of the Red Fort last year, was full of how to make India clean by 2019. Soon after, the PM launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in October, with construction of toilets as its main component. Unlike the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, a similar scheme launched by the UPA government, SBM delinked itself from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). This was done because the government found that the construction of the number of toilets had slowed down in 2012-13 and 2013-14, after the convergence of two programmes in 2012.

Source:Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation

With this, the Modi government also set some targets of construction of toilets in both households and schools.

According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the target for households was set at 98 million more toilets by 2019. This means 67,000 toilets in a day or 46 toilets in a minute. The number, however, does not go well with the past performance of the government which says that under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, in the financial year 2014-15, 11 toilets were constructed in a minute.  

This means that construction has to speed up by four times the present rate. At the pace of 2014-15, the target would be achieved by 2032, and not 2019.

For school toilets, the ambition set last year was to get one toilet in every school by 2015. School toilets were introduced under the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999. The target at that time was to get toilets in all types of government schools (primary, secondary and higher secondary) under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme, by 2013. The target was, however, not achieved.

TSC was replaced by Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) where schools that were not under SSA were also included. No deadline was given.

Constructing toilets in schools is an easier task as there is no need to spread awareness among the users. Even the location of the toilets on the school premises is more or less fixed. What is needed is proper design, water connection and operation and maintenance schedule.

Source: Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation

Long way to go

SBM was launched in October 2014, whereby the target was to construct toilets in every school by August 15, 2015. Below are a few numbers from the Swachh Vidyalaya handbook that reveal the huge gap between what already exists and what is to be achieved.

  • Total schools where functional toilets have to be made: 418,000 
  • Number of schools where functional toilets have already been made under Swachh Vidyalaya: 257,000
  • Remaining number of schools where functional toilets have to be made: 161,000
  • As per the need for functional toilets, only 61 per cent of the target for schools has been achieved

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

India Environment Portal Resources :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.

  • you should go and check whether toilets have been constructed or not.....plz don't monitor govt or anyone else while staying and writing from a Air Conditioned room bcz you can't be aware of poverty situation without feeling the same

    Posted by: Mahesh Arora | 3 years ago | Reply
  • Dear All,
    Issues related to Safe Water and Sanitation, simply do not have the same resonance during implementation and the situation becomes more worse prominently under Sanitation Sector. I am very sorry that even after a long association with the works under rural Sanitation Sector in Assam, which is one of the North Eastern States in India, I don’t feel comfortable with the PACE and Achievement of our works. I really consider it as our failure that we could not create the enabling environment to find a better and committed workforce to work relentlessly for the Rural Sanitation. Even, the necessary support is also missing from all fronts to endorse "WASH for All :: All for WASH". There are some stakeholders, who agree to accept the declaration "WASH for ALL". But when their turn comes to deliver, they just ignore "All for WASH".
    WASH based approach for sustained infrastructure and Usage should be a new Goal with renewed focus on the following :
    (a) Water Safety and Security including Water Quality Monitoring and necessary precautionary / remediation measures.
    (b) Prioritising water scarce / quality affected regions.
    (c) The basic thrust needs to focus on Awareness and Social Norms on the importance of a Sanitary Toilet at every household levels.
    (d) Robust Monitoring mechanism for use and maintenance of Sanitation facilities to address bottlenecks leading to slipping back from coverage pattern.
    (e) Total Environmental Sanitation including the proper Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities.
    (f) Facilitating Operation and Maintenance for WASH infrastructures in households as well as Institutions like, Schools, Anganwadi Centres, Community oriented facilities etc. eventually to ensure sustainability.
    (g) Institutionalised approach for capacity development to establish social equity / norms for the all round development of the communities with special thrust for the marginalised sections.
    (h) Massive approach on Hygienic practices for personal / food Hygiene.
    (i) Aiming at meaningful and participatory involvement of all stakeholders to ensure eventual effectiveness of WASH activities. An important aspect is the inter-sectoral convergence. For example, the Stakeholders working in the Nutrition Sector should not consider only about the Food and their respective calorific value, but also about the importance of WASH practices to get maximum out of such calorific food values. As an instance, Mid-day Meal Programme is sponsored by Government in Schools keeping in view of importance on Nutrition, but the conditions in the schools, arising out of absence of an well maintained WASH facilities or the Hand Washing practices, should also not be ignored, which may eventually hamper the desired impacts.
    (j) Necessary efforts / thrust oriented action plan during EMERGENCY SITUATION causing large scale displacement of human habitat. Adequate WASH activities must be prioritised for such displaced population.
    (k) Impacts of regions specific Climate Change.
    (l) Establishment of Regional Task Force for Implementation and Monitoring.
    (m) Lastly and not the least, the political WILL and SUPPORT for establishing the desired mandate.
    So there is a NEED of a specific Approach in this regard to ensure 100% ACCESS to Sanitary Toilet and also for sustained Drinking Water Security ( Availability, Accessibility and Adequacy ) for ALL.
    Considering the UN resolution declaring the Access to Water and Sanitation as Human Right, the WASH activities have already been included as Individual Goal under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), unlike that included as a part of Goal No-7 ( Environmental Sustainability ) in earlier MDGs. The Goal No- 6 under proposed SDG is to Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Hence it is most likely now that improved WASH activities shall be prioritised in all fronts including Household and Community level to create far reaching impacts on HUMAN health.
    The CALL to the Nations is to adopt region / state specific POLICY / Agenda for all of the abovesaid approaches to address the issue of Well-being of Mankind and the Environmental Sustainability.
    So let us pledge - "WASH for ALL :: All for WASH".
    Thanking you.
    With Regards.
    Nripendra Kumar Sarma
    Nagaon, Assam, India

    Posted by: Nripendra Sarma | 3 years ago | Reply
  • I guess it is written by someone who doesn't know how numbers work. Let's take an example. we start construction of 10000 toilets on July 1 with a target of say 30 days. Nothing moves, the completion target at the end of 15th July was just 1000.

    The rate of toilet construction would be 1000/15=66.66. But work is in progress at other places. And they know that the deadline is before 30th July and the construction must end.

    Now let's say that another 2000 were reported to be complete by 25th July. Therefore, we see two data now. One is the rate of construction till now i.e. 3000/25=120 toilets per day and rate of construction between 15-25th July i.e. 2000/10=200 toilets per day.

    Now towards the end all toilets were built. So there are three data now -a) Total rate of construction - ie- 10000/30 = 333.33 b) rate of construction between 25th and 30th = 7000/5= 1400 per day and c) rate of construction between 15th and 30th = 9000/15= 300 toilets per day.

    Any infrastructure project that is being constructed will always be inflated towards the end. Period.

    Posted by: RaviM | 3 years ago | Reply
    • Dear Mr. Ravi

      Thank you so much for reading the article with interest and commenting. We are happy to know that you are also equally concerned about the state of toilet construction in the country.

      Its great to know that in any infrastructure project, although there may be a delay in initial period, at the end, the speed of construction really gears up. If that is the case then we should say that the officials have done a commendable job.

      Still one question remains - Are these toilets which are constructed at such great speed at the last phase are technologically sound, usable and with water connection? I think people have already started debating on it.

      If we say that every thing is working in these toilets built in the last phase of any project then there is no doubt that we are surely moving towards a better India.

      We once again thank you for letting us know how the construction rate is inflated in the last phase of any project.

      Posted by: Sushmita Sengupta | 3 years ago | Reply
  • great work.its a very good article for research

    Posted by: Mandeep Singh | 2 years ago | Reply