Rural Water and Sanitation

Govt launches new framework to sustain India’s ‘100% ODF status’

The Centre will proclaim India to be 100% ODF on October 2 and the new framework envisages its strategy to maintain that status

By Shagun
Published: Friday 27 September 2019

The Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), launched a 10-year national rural sanitation strategy to sustain India’s 100 per cent Open Defecation Free (ODF) status claimed by the Centre, on September 27, 2019.

The framework, to be in place from 2019 to 2029, will ensure that people sustain their usage of toilets. It will also focus on proper implementation of solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) — plastic waste, organic waste, grey water, and faecal sludge — in rural areas. 

A report was released on the occasion and outlined the steps that the government intends to take under the framework. They include the retrofitting of single pit toilets to twin pits or making provisions to empty pits every five years, repair of defunct ones, and construction of soak pits for septic tanks wherever not already present. 

A district-level training management unit (TMU) will be set up to provide oversight and support to gram panchayats (GPs) so that they ensure the operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure. The GPs are also supposed to conduct rapid assessment of water and sanitation gaps. 

While there are still houses that have been left behind under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and gaps which need to be addressed, the Centre has said India will be declared ODF on October 2, 2019, the target it had set itself five years ago. 

The government acknowledges there might be some gaps but those are miniscule in number and the ministry will fix them under its ODF plus mission, DDWS secretary Parameswaran Iyer told reporters on September 27.

“This (ODF) is only the first milestone,” Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, said. “The work does not end here. We need to sustain this. We will take a small pause on October 2 and then move forward into the ODF plus journey. In that journey, the first step is sustaining ODF. We don't want any slip-backs,” he added.

While government funding is the primary source of financing in the sanitation sector, the strategy mentioned in the framework also suggests alternative self-financing by gradual leveraging of community resources in the form of tariffs for ODF plus activities. 

“It will follow the same 60:40 financing model as being followed till now in Swachh Bharat. It will be finalised after the cabinet’s approval,” Iyer said. 

The framework also talks about state-specific strategies on menstrual hygiene management, including menstrual waste management, which may be supported under the ODF plus strategy. 

Meanwhile, in the wake of the murder of two children in Madhya Pradesh's Shivpuri district over open defecation, the government has issued an advisory to all states.

Any coercive action taken by anybody, including government or elected officials, or private individuals with respect to sanitation behaviour of any kind is ‘totally unacceptabe’, the advisory said.

“In such cases, the concerned authorities should prosecute the guilty to the fullest extent of the appropriate law,” it added.

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