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South Asia

Action Learning: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s missing master key

The number and nature of the many forces that intertwine to trap rural Indians in filth and infections are still not fully recognised. Widespread preference for open defecation (OD), subsidised toilets, corruption, caste and divided communities, concepts of purity, population increase and density, faecally-transmitted infections (FTIs) causing undernutrition (‘shit stunts’), diminishing cognitive ability and damaging immune systems, and the multiple physical and social harms inflicted on women and girls – these are among the forces that interlock as a syndrome - a net, a trap, a prison - escape from which is fiendishly difficult.

To end open defecation, make Indians want to

Over half of all Indians defecate in the open, and in rural areas, this figure is about 70 per cent. In contrast, less than 1 per cent of people in China, 4 per cent of people in Bangladesh, and about a quarter of people in Sub-Saharan Africa defecate in the open. Why is there so much more open defecation in India? Considering that open defecation in rural India causes death, disease, malnutrition and the loss of economic productivity, understanding why it is so common is an important priority.

Not just toilets

The Indian Prime Minister has given a call for ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) as a mass movement to realise Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a clean India. He deviated from convention and made sanitation a central theme of his Independence Day speech, making it a political priority, and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, launched today, aims to make the country open defecation-free by 2019. India is become the world’s largest open defecator, and of the 1 billion people worldwide who have no toilets, India accounts for 600 million.

Public pledging for collective behaviour change

CLTS triggering can be powerful but is rarely attended by all members of a community. This weakens its impact and sustainability. On later visits it is quite common to find that people do not recollect triggering. An innovation in 7 GPs of Namkhana Block of the Sundarbans in West Bengal has found that public pledging is a way of overcoming these problems, reinforcing triggering and involving all adults in the community.
Date: 8 September 2014
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Can India's women lead the way to a Swachh Bharat (Clean India)?

I have just had two remarkable weeks in India with the National Rural Livelihoods Mission.  This is a national movement of, so far, 2.4 million women’s self-help groups (SHGs).  Each has about 10 members.  Then there are Village Organisations of SHGs and Federations above them.  I was there to help explore whether these SHGs and their organisations could take a lead in the drive for rural sanitation.  This involved field visits in Telangana (formerly part of Andhra Pradesh) and Bihar, and three brainstorming workshops, the last one at national level in Delhi, convened by the World Bank whic

Will Narendra Modi free India from open defecation?

“Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in the open?” With these words, the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week pushed sanitation up the hierarchy of national concerns. Using the solemn speech in the annual commemoration of the Independence Day, Modi announced a new campaign to eliminate open defecation – the practice of people relieving themselves in the open – by 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth in 2019.

Poor sanitation in India may affecr well-fed children with malnutrition

In India, a long economic boom has done little to reduce the vast number of cases of malnutrition and stunting in children, leaving them with mental and physical deficits that affect them for the rest of their lives. An emerging body of scientific studies suggest that many of the 162 million children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.

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