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Coercion-induced 26% Hindi belt open defecation decline "unlikely" to last: Study

Note: pp stands for percentage points
By Rajiv Shah
Sharply contesting the Government of India claim that “open defecation has been entirely or largely eliminated” in the Hindi belt, a recent study, “Changes in open defecation in rural north India: 2014-2018” has found that “between 42% to 57% of rural people over two years old defecate in the open” in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Based on a survey of 1,558 households involving 9,812 individuals, and 156 “qualitative interviews”, the survey finds that there was inter-state variation – 25% in Bihar, 39% in Uttar Pradesh, 53% in Rajasthan and 60% in Bihar – the study says even this was a better showing than what it was previously, though achieved through coercion.
Predicting that coercive tactics are unlikely to remain effective for long, the study says, compared with 2014, when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power, there was 26 percentage point reduction in open defecation in 2018, which is more than six percentage points per year, “rapid compared to the likely rate of decline in prior years.”
Published by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), and authored by Aashish Gupta, Nazar Khalid, Devashish Deshpande, Payal Hathi, Avani Kapur, Nikhil Srivastav, Sangita Vyas, Dean Spears, and Diane Coffey, the study, however, regrets that “nearly the entire change in open defecation between 2014 and 2018 comes from increases in latrine ownership, rather than from changes in behaviour (that is, differences in the proportion of owners and non-owners who defecate in the open).” 
Coercion used on different social groups, 2018

Pointing out that “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 Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (SBM) than they were to stress use of latrines”, the study finds that “large increases in latrine coverage in each of the focus states between 2014 and 2018.”
Finding “considerable variation” here, too, the study says, the “increases in latrine ownership ranged from 21 percentage points in Bihar to 47 percentage points in MP and Rajasthan, with the government support for latrine construction “ranged from 19% of households in Bihar to 53% of households in Madhya Pradesh.”
At the same time, the study says, “People in households that received money to build their own latrine, rather than a government constructed latrine, were almost 10 percentage points less likely to defecate in the open.” It adds, however, that "the fraction of people who own a latrine, but who nevertheless defecate in the open, did not change between 2014 and 2018: it was about 23% in both years."
At the same time, the study notes the “estimated reduction in open defecation of approximately 26 percentage points over four years of the SBM” came with “a social cost: coercion and threats by local officials were commonplace”, even “violence and bullying.”
The study believes, this “social cost” is likely to reach a situation where there is “uncertainty about whether latrine use among new latrine owners will be sustained when the environment of enforcement and coercion diminishes”.
Thus, the study says, in Rajasthan, it was found that that “only 45% of people in households where the primary reason for building a latrine was pressure from village officials used it”, compared with “about 80% latrine use among people in households where convenience or lack of open spaces was the primary cause for construction.”
Open defecation among latrine owners by pit size, 2018
According to the survey, “coercion followed familiar patterns of social disadvantage”, pointing out, “Both among latrine owners and among latrine non-owners, Dalit and Adivasi households were more likely than households from other social groups to report that they personally experienced coercion.”
The study finds that coercion was came in three forms -- stopped from defecating in the open, threat to stop benefits and threat of fine – underlining, “Among households that own a latrine, Dalits are over twice as likely as others to report that their own household received coercion and Adivasis were almost three times as likely.”
In yet another revelation, the study finds that if households are split by religion, one finds that “Hindus in latrine-owning households are more likely to defecate in the open than Muslims in latrine-owning households.”
At the same it finds that “open defecation is much less common in households with larger latrine pits, especially among Hindu households.”
It adds, “One reason for this pattern is that smaller pits are perceived to require frequent emptying, an activity which is associated with caste impurity”, while “large pits, in contrast, do not require emptying as frequently, and therefore their use does not invoke the same worries about contact with faeces or hiring a manual scavenger.”
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Download full report HERE

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
A time will come when the country will be odf but it will not happen soon. In this, as in many other things, the government thinks people are blind, deaf, and stupid.
Anonymous said…
A good article. Unless the toilets are linked with tap water, maintaining a clean toilet needs considerable amount of water. Even in our village toilets I have encountered this problem. Then, their quality of construction must further improve, for which, skilled persons are needed. We didn’t address these issues in the concept.
Anonymous said…
Small sample and wrong extrapolation. field survey done much earlier when coverage was less.

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