Skip to main content

Spot observation: 40% to 100% open defecation across 10 rural and urban clusters

By Bharat Dogra* 

The recent emphasis of the sanitation campaign particularly the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM Rural and SBM Urban) on achieving ODF (Open Defecation Free) status in villages and slums has led to varying levels of success in various places. On the other hand we have situations close to complete success but on the other hand we also have situation close to almost complete failure or very limited success.
One important question now is -- what is to be the next step in areas where open defecation still exists to a large extent -- say somewhere between 40 to 100%. In some entire panchayats open defecation may not be so high but in particular hamlets of these panchayats more likely to be inhabited by the weaker sections such a situation may exist. Anyone familiar with the real sanitation situation would readily agree that there are tens of thousands of such rural and urban settlements.
Recently this writer visited about 10 such rural and urban clusters where the extent of open defecation was between 40 and 100%. I tried to find out that if the failure had been due to the people not giving adequate priority to having toilets. 
In 8 out of 10 settlements I found that people gave very high priority to having toilets as they were facing a lot of problems due to open defecation. In one village in fact two women had died due to snake bites at the time of open defecation. 
In some rural and urban settlements women reported other serious safety issues also related to open defecation. In the remaining two settlements also toilets were a priority, but not to the same extent as in the other eight. 
This was because the people here are burdened with other such serious problems that while open defecation here too is a serious problem and they need toilets, but in terms of their top priorities they may not include toilets.
Here we do not go into the details of the reasons why despite the felt needs of the people for toilets and despite recent government campaigns many people still do not have toilets. Of course some of the failure is due to the poor construction of toilets but there are other reasons too. However the larger question is regarding the future development strategy in terms of sanitation.
In several Delhi urban settlements, it is taken for granted that inadequate public toilets will meet the needs of people these meant to cover
There are rural settlements in which the money for toilets has been spent but open defecation continues. Now these households are listed as beneficiaries already of SBM and hence it is unlikely that any help for toilet construction will come their way in the near future.
There was over-reporting earlier at the time of declaring ODF in many places, and until the reality is recognized it is unlikely that the government will start any new drive for toilet construction.
However what can be done with the help of voluntary organizations which have experience in sanitation is that they should very honestly make an assessment of the real situation and problems and then try to introduce ODF successfully in the case of just about a dozen households who presently resort to open defecation, taking care of all the problems that were highlighted in their assessment. This can be done at a number of places carefully. The learning from these places can then become the basis of a bigger intervention.
In several urban settlements including in Delhi, it is being taken for granted that the very inadequate public toilets are able to meet the needs of people these are meant to cover. Here too there is need for careful assessment and small-scale but careful interventions to meet needs of people in such a way that there can be learning for bigger interventions later.
Unless such efforts continue to be made, the unmet sanitation needs of many people will be pushed under the cover of exaggerated statistics of what has been achieved. We must have realistic information regarding those left out and what can be done, should be done on a continuing basis in more careful ways for them, even if these are small efforts.
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include “Protecting Earth for Children”, “Man over Machine” and “When the Two Streams Met”



'Draconian' Kerala health law follows WHO diktat: Govt readies to take harsh measures

By Dr Maya Valecha*  The Governor of Kerala has signed the Kerala Public Health Bill, which essentially reverses the people’s campaign in healthcare services in Kerala for decentralisation. The campaign had led to relinquishing of state powers in 1996, resulting in improvement of health parameters in Kerala. Instead, now, enforcement of law through the exercise of power, fines, etc., and the implementation of protocol during the pandemic, are considered of prime importance.

Reject WHO's 'draconian' amendments on pandemic: Citizens to Union Health Minister

By Our Representative  Several concerned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister to reject amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) in May 2022, apprehending this will make the signatories surrender their autonomy to the “unelected, unaccountable and the whimsical WHO in case of any future ‘pandemics’.”

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Bihar rural women entrepreneurs witness 50% surge in awareness about renewal energy

By Mignonne Dsouza*  An endline survey conducted under the Bolega Bihar initiative revealed a significant increase in awareness of renewable energy among women, rising from 25% to 76% in Nalanda and Gaya. Renu Kumari, a 34-year-old entrepreneur from Nalanda, Bihar, operates a village eatery that serves as the primary source of income for her family, including her husband and five children. However, a significant portion of her profits was being directed toward covering monthly electricity expenses that usually reach Rs 2,000. 

Work with Rajasthan's camel herders: German scientist wins World Cookbook Award 2023

By Rosamma Thomas*  Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are the only awards for international food culture. This year, German scientist  Ilse Kohler Rollefson , founder of Camel Charisma, the first of India’s camel dairies, in Pali district of Rajasthan, won the award for her work with camel herders in Rajasthan, and for preparing for the UN International Year of Camelids, 2024. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Why is electricity tariff going up in India? Who is the beneficiary? A random reflection

By Thomas Franco*  Union Ministry of Power has used its power under Section 11 of the Electricity Act, 2003 to force States to import coal which has led to an increase in the cost of electricity production and every consumer is paying a higher tariff. In India, almost everybody from farmers to MSMEs are consumers of electricity.

'Pro-corporate agenda': Odisha crackdown on tribal slum dwellers fighting for land rights

By Our Representative  The civil rights network Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), even as condemning what it calls “brutal repression” on the Adivasi slum dwellers of Salia Sahi in Bhubaneshwar by the Odisha police, has said that the crackdown was against the tribals struggling for land rights in order to “stop the attempts at land-grab by the government.”

Deplorable, influential sections 'still believe' burning coal is essential indefinitely

By Shankar Sharma*  Some of the recent developments in the power sector, as some  recent news items show, should be of massive relevance/ interest to our policy makers in India. Assuming that our authorities are officially mandated/ committed to maintain a holistic approach to the overall welfare of all sections of our society, including the flora, fauna and general environment, these developments/ experiences from different parts of the globe should be clear pointers to the sustainable energy pathways for our people.

Hazrat Aisha’s age was 16, not 6: 'Weak' Hadith responsible for controversy

Sacred chamber where Prophet and Aisha used to live By Dr Mike Ghouse* Muslims must take the responsibility to end the age-old controversy about Hazrat Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage to the Prophet (pbuh) – it was 16, not 6 (minimum was 16, Max 23 per different calculations). The Hadiths published were in good faith, but no one ever checked their authenticity, and they kept passing on from scholar to scholar and book to book.  Thanks to 9/11, Muslims have started questioning and correcting the Hadiths, Seerah, and mistranslations of the Quran. Now, the Ulema have to issue an opinion, also known as Fatwa, to end it and remove those Hadith entries. Mustafa Akyol, a scholar of Islam, implores Muslims to stop deifying “the received traditions” and critically study their religious past, shedding rigid legalism and close-mindedness. Someone else used the phrase “copycat Muslims” to identify scholars who copied what was given to them and passed it on without researching or questioni