[Answered] Building toilets not enough, India need behavioural change for becoming Swachh Bharat. Critically Examine.

One of the major issues affecting the transition from current 45% (census 2011) open defecation to 0% open defecation is behavior change, as access alone doesn’t translate into usage. The pattern of toilet usage indicates that socio-cultural, allied factors connected to sanitation have a greater impact on sanitation behavior rather than presence or absence of toilet. Various studies substantiate it:

Behavioral reasons of open defecation:-

  • Open defecation is a socially accepted traditional practice.
  • Many households and communities consider toilets unclean and the availability of open defecation fields in rural areas supports the continuation of such a belief.
  • Lack of awareness of the linkages between using a toilet, the safe disposal of feces and hygiene and health.
  • Many fathers, mothers and caregivers do not perceive child faeces as harmful.
  • It is common practice to throw faeces out in the open and not ensuring its proper disposal.
  • Construction of toilets is still seen as a government responsibility, rather than a priority that individual households should take responsibility for.  
  • As such people prioritize buying a mobile phone or TV rather than investing in, using and maintaining a toilet.  
  • People cites reasons like it provides opportunity to take morning walk, socialization, see their fields, have fresh air

Some studies on open defecation:-

  • UNICEF’s study on eliminating OD: It analyses – construction of toilets should be made a priority for households and that the challenge lies in motivating people to see toilet as fundamental to their social standing, status &well being.
  • Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends (SQUAT) survey in few states of North India shows people has revealed preference for OD.
  • NSSO 72nd round: There has been increase in usage of toilets in the recent past after launch of SBM. Access to toilets is 45% in and 85% in rural and urban areas respectively and those using toilets have increased to 46% and 50% in rural and urban areas respectively (Economic times report)

Success stories:

Nadia district, WB – first ODF district: Under DabarShouchagar movement: Decentralised institutional capacity for sanitation – it mobilized people elected representatives and made by-laws making OD punishable. Increased awareness by taking pledges in schools, roping Anganwadi workers under catchment area approach, community based activities.

International experiences: SE Asian countries like Bangladesh, SL, Vietnam achieved 3%, 0%, 2% OD. They focused on intense behavior change communication (BCC) by community support resulting in more demand generation than subsidy linked support. B’desh – 25 % funds to promotional activities; SL – innovative funding to community based organsiations.

Way forward:

  • Engage people emotionally: Campaign should tell people that it improves health (information), reduce barrier to adoption (problem solving),
  • Create social support, provide materials for adoption (water etc.),
  • Wide visibility by increasing budgets for awareness related activities(media)

Swachh India is integral to the developed society that the country aspires to become. Providing access to toilets and changing the habits are therefore equally important. The challenge is to design effective strategy which will change old practices and that message has to reach nook and corner of the country

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