“Mere constructing toilets will not serve the issue, but it’s the perception of people which needs to be changed”. Analyse this statement and discuss ways to change and influence mindsets of people regarding toilet use in India. (150 W/ 10 M)

Mentor’s Comment:

The question demands you to assess the issues related to the use of toilets. It may be socio-economic, infrastructural, cultural, attitudinal factors etc. explain them with relevant points.

Out of all the factors, attitude plays a significant role. Quote ‘SQUAT survey’ conducted in 5 northern states and mention about attitudinal behaviour. One can also mention the findings of UNICEF study.

Further, mention how to influence change in people’s mindset. Some of the measures can be discussed as: Involving community, Sensing local sentiment, Sensitization, solving infrastructural issues like availability of water, proper drainage system etc.

Model Answer:


  • Though sanitation is a personal business, it has significant social impact (health, cleanliness, attitude etc.) In India, where more than 50% of the population defecate in the open, it is observed that there is an interplay of several socio-economic (poverty), infrastructural (water, toilet availability), cultural (habitual) and attitudinal factors that decide the sanitation behaviour of people. Hence, it is equally important to address all these aspects to gain any significant success towards the goal of ‘Swachchh Bharat’.
  • Since 1986, India has spent more than $ 3 billion on construction of toilets and Government of India is planning to spend another $ 31 billion over the next 4 years in building toilets. Despite these huge infrastructural interventions very little success has been achieved.

Attitude matters:

  • A recent SQUAT survey in 5 northern states observed that at least 40% houses where new toilets have been built, atleast one member defecates outside, due to cultural conditioning and tradition.
  • Survey led by sanitation quality use access and trends observed that villages that have got ‘Nirmal Bharat Puraskar’ do not have toilets in harijan bastis (example: Fatehpur District, UP).
  • A study by UNICEF found that people have a perception of several health benefits to go in open fresh air, 74% gave pleasure, comfort, and convenience as reason to go out. (Perception factor)
  • Toilets in the current design are unfairly compared to dark and unfriendly structures of past, because of which many people don’t want them.

How to change Mindset:

  • Involving Community: Rather than applying a top-down approach (where govt. decides sanitation habit of people), stakeholders especially women, school children and faith based organizations must be involved. (Success of ‘Sabra Sauchagar’ movement in Nadia District of West Bengal, which bagged UN Public Service award, is a good role model).
  • Remodeling Local Sanitation Crusaders: People pay attention, when someone from among them speaks example, women in Kanpur who denied marriage till the in laws construct toilet.
  • Sensing Local Sentiment: People (especially women) are involved in community committees who decide the type and technology of toilet in Bangladesh. This can be implemented in India as well.
  • Sensitization: Government initiatives like ‘no toilet no bride campaign’, sensitization through ASHA and village sanitation committee, nukkad-natak, road shows, short films, celebrity campaign, social media propaganda can go a long way.


  • Traditionally sanitation issue has been equated with lack of toilets. Hence the government attitude has been towards constructing toilets as a panacea. This attitude should be given way to understand sanitation issue in its totality. A multi-pronged, multi stakeholder, innovative approach towards changing mindset is at the core of realizing total sanitation.


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