It’s a common part of life in India to use nature as a toilet. Last week though, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a giant step forward with his sanitation agenda.
“The world is amazed that toilets have been provided to more than 600 million people in 60 months, building more than 110 million toilets,” Modi said last week. “No one was ready to believe earlier that India will become open defecation-free in such a short period of time. Now, it is a reality.”
The Prime Minister started his plan five years ago and it is now in full swing. But some say the stats aren’t accurate, and that many people are still expelling their bodily waste into open areas.
Is the campaign really working?
Researcher Nazar Khalid from the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), says that the project aimed too much towards the construction of the toilets but there wasn’t enough effort to ensure that the public knew how to use them. Toilet care and sewage management were issues that were also neglected.
According to UNICEF, around 620 million Indians do their business out in the open, which is inevitably going cause a lot of health problems. Many women are also vulnerable in these moments as they leave themselves open to miscreants looking to take advantage of the situation.
The World Health Organization calculated that approximately 300,000 individuals might have been saved from premature deaths due to diarrhea and protein-energy malnutrition over these last five years thanks to this initiative.
Prior to the Clean India campaign, less than 40 percent of Indian homes possessed access to a toilet, and now, government says that the entire country is able to use a toilet when needed.
Modi says that there were multiple factors that influenced the success of the Clean India project, such as promotion from Bollywood actors, while there were also accounts of women who wouldn’t get married until their husbands-to-be made sure that the house had a working toilet.
But despite the hype around the supposed success of the campaign, researchers say there are still plenty of people who don’t have toilet availability, or who simply reject the idea of using one.
“We need to appreciate that this government has made sanitation a big priority, which has not happened in the past,” said Khalid. “But this is such a big farce because open defecation by no means has been eliminated.” He added, “You are supposed to not only construct latrines but also educate people on how to use them, how to maintain them, and what happens with the sludge that goes inside the pit”.