A new research on the impact of Swachh Bharat Mission, conducted in the rural part of four northern states, revealed that while open defecation has reduced and toilet ownership has increased, the percentage of people who owned toilets but continued to defecate in the open has remained unchanged between 2014 and 2018, as reported by The Hindu. The research has shown that 23% of people own toilets but nevertheless defecate in open and have remained unchanged between 2014 and 2018.
The research conducted by the Research Institute of Compassionate Economics (R.I.C.E) and Accountability Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research, indicates that the Swachh Bharat mission has been successful in constructing toilets but failed to bring the behavioural changes in people. However, the research confirms that Mission has driven the construction of toilets, as almost 60% of household which didn’t have toilets in 2014 had one by 2018.
The study which covered 9812 people from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, showed that approximately 44% of people still defecate in open. The research was conducted in late 2018 and it was conducted among the same group of people who were part of the survey conducted in 2014 which showed that 70 % of people then defecated in open.
Swacch Bharat aims to eliminate open defection till October 2019
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a nation-wide campaign which was started in October 2014, was initiated with the multiple objectives of cleaning the streets, roads, infrastructure and cities till 2019. The mission aimed at constructing 90 million toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs. 1.96 lakh crore. The mission aims at eliminating open defecation by achieving ‘open defecation free’ (ODF) India by October 2019, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The mission will also aid India in achieving Sustainable Development Goals 6 (SDG 6) which was established by the UN in 2015.
India had one of the highest numbers of people defecating in open(53 crores in 2014). According to a survey by the Ministry Of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the number of people defecating in the open had come down to 25 crores in the last four years.
According to the official report of Swachh Bharat Mission, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are already open defecation states. The official report of government also claimed that Bihar has achieved 98.97% coverage of toilets for every household while Uttar Pradesh has achieved 100%. The official report of government is inconsistent with the findings of the research. The authors of the research said, “This finding is consistent with our qualitative interviews, which found that local officials were far more likely to stress latrine construction as a priority of the SBM than they were to stress the use of latrines.”
The research report also found that the entire change in open defecation between 2014 and 2018 comes from the increases in the latrine ownership rather than from changes in the behaviour of people.
The findings of the research make the aim of eliminating open defecation and achieving “open defection” free India by 2019 highly improbable. The objective of Swachh Bharat Mission was not only to eliminate open defecation but to also bring the behavioural changes in people. However, the research shows that the Swachh Bharat Mission has merely reduced to the construction of toilets which defeats the whole purpose of this Mission.