October 2nd 2014 marked the launch of a new scheme called the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, focused on fulfilling Gandhi’s dream of seeing a clean India. The mission aims at eradicating open defecation till 2019, thus restructuring the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.
Although such schemes and steps have been taken place by the consecutive governments, little has changed on the ground level with a major chunk of the population still defecating in the open. Following are the reasons :
a) Social : There is mindset problem among people who consider having a toilet at home, where apparently we also have a kitchen and a temple a “sin”. Also, manual scavenging is forced upon the lower caste people and the upper caste don’t appreciate doing the same work, but instead defecate in the open as an option.
b) Economic : Some households wish to have a toilet but don’t have the amount of investment required to have a toilet at home.
c) Behavioral : Some have a false notion that defecating in open is actually good for health and is a better practice.
d) Structural : Problem with construction and designing of toilets. Most toilets under Swacch Bharat have small pits which gets filled easily and people stop using it hence.
e) Gender-bias : Question on why should the women use the same toilet as men also is prevalent. This patriarchy also publicizes open defecation.
Measures required :
a) Structural : Better running-water and properly designed toilets should be prioritized.
b) Economic : Assistance to households wanting to build a toilet.
c) Mindset change : Information, Education and Communication(IEC), advertsiments, Nukkad Nataks, engaging NGO’s and Civil society for changing the behavior and mindset of the people must be done.
d) Centralized water system should be the focus so that toilets get the required amount of water.
The message of the health conditions by not having a toilet does not go down to people. We can target school children, community and SHGs to send across the message in a stronger way.