Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) is the ambitious national campaign launched by the Union government in 2014 with the objective of making India open defecation free (ODF) by 2019 through the construction of toilets and promoting their use. It has been executed by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) in rural areas as SBM-Gramin and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in urban areas as SBM-Urban. The performance of the scheme has not been analyzed properly in the government portals as observed in sbm.gov.in. Hence, this is an attempt to analyze how SBM has transformed sanitation in India after 5 years of its conception using the data from the National Sample Survey (NSS) on Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Housing Condition in India.
A Sanitation Revolution:
Rural India has seen a tremendous increase in sanitation coverage. Nearly 10 crore toilets have been constructed in the last 5 years, thereby increasing access to toilets immensely as shown in Figure 1. Greatest transformation took place in states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. While 90% of rural households had no toilets in Jharkhand in 2012, it reduced to 42% in 2018. In Chattisgarh, the respective figures are 77% in 2012 and 9% in 2018. It should also be noted that Sikkim, Kerala, and the North East have high toilet coverage (more than 97%) even before the theme of sanitation has come into national consciousness through SBM.
Sanitation in urban India has always been better than in rural India. In the last 5 years, the center and state governments have been successful in the last-mile delivery of the toilet construction. The fact that many states — Kerala, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Telangana, Maharashtra, and North Eastern states — have less than 2% urban households without toilets bears a testimony to this. The states shown in Figure 2 reported a significant changes in access to toilets. Odisha remains as the only state which reported a deterioration of the condition.
Goals not realized:
Despite of the great transformation across rural and urban India, the goal of becoming ODF has not been realized yet in totality. Many regions still need focus under the SBM.
Figure 3 shows the relative performance of states in providing sanitation coverage to rural India. Rural Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh are critical regions. These states have seen great improvement since 2012 but they still require huge investments. In Odisha, 51% of rural households still don’t have access to toilets which is a cause of concern.
Figure 4 shows the relative performance of states for urban areas. It can be observed that the very same states of Odisha, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh underperform in the urban regions as well. In Odisha, 19% of urban households have no access to toilets. This is a grave situation as many rural parts of India are performing better than urban Odisha.
Another goal which is yet to be realized is the behavioral change. It has been well recognized that the biggest challenge in fighting open defecation in India is not only the access to toilets but behavioral change to put those toilets to use. 3.5% rural people and 2% urban people reported that they “never” used toilets despite having access to them. Figure 5 shows various reasons reported for not using toilets. The majority of the respondents gave “Other” as the reason for not using the toilet and this shows that people are not still comfortable discussing toilet use.
The government announced that Swatch Bharat Mission will continue with a new aim of India becoming ODF+. While becoming ODF involved achieving 100% coverage of toilets, becoming ODF+ involves even 100% management of sewage waste produced by these toilets. In pursuance of this aim, the government has emphasized construction of twin pit toilets which would convert the waste into manure. Twin pit toilets are thus better than the septic tanks and single pit tanks which make waste management an unhygienic practice. They also help in addressing the issue of manual scavenging in India. Figure 6 shows the performance of states in becoming ODF+ in rural areas. For the purposes of this analysis, piped sewage and twin pit toilets are considered as contributing to ODF+ status. Had the survey included data on the present status of waste treatment of septic tanks and other types of toilets, more detailed analysis would have been possible.
It can be observed that none of the states are ready to become ODF+ in rural areas. One might wonder how Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are performing better than other states in ODF+ despite under-performing in access to toilets. This is because these states started with poor toilet coverage and the government encouraged the construction of twin pit toilets in the last 5 years under SBM. The very same reasoning explains why North Eastern states have very less ODF+ coverage despite having extremely good coverage of toilets, well before 2012.
Even in Urban India, except for a few states, the performance in becoming ODF+ has not been satisfactory as shown in Figure 7.
Thus, to become ODF+, apart from construction of new toilets in the critical regions, the Swatch Bharat Mission 2.0 should focus on converting the septic tanks, open pit latrines, etc., into twin pit toilets or provide piped sewage to households.
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Data Sources (References):