In Chattisgarh, 8582 villages have become Open Defecation Free and it is targeting to be completely ODF by October 2018. Of all the issues that people from outside India find truly nauseating about the Indian environment in towns, cities and villages is how openly people defecate and urinate. There was a time when India was less than 300 million and India was still a huge country. At that time, some of the folks doing it in the fields was probably considered bearable. But with 1.3 billion people and counting, with hardly a place to live for everyone, if everyone starts urinating and defecating out in the open, it does become a major sanitation and health problem. Here are some of the diseases that are directly caused by the scourge of Open Defecation.
- intestinal worm infections
- water pollution due to rains which drain feces that are dispersed in the environment into surface water or unprotected wells
Open Defecation was found to be a major health and sanitation issue causing deaths due to diarrhea by WHO.
Open defecation was found by the WHO in 2014 to be a leading cause of diarrheal death
Also when population density is so high as in India, open defecation leads a lot of health impacts, specially in the early life.
“The same amount of open defecation is twice as bad in a place with a high population density average like India versus a low population density average like sub-Saharan Africa.”
The impact of Open Defecation in high population density areas – like South Asia – can be devastating. Not only is the Infant Mortality Rate much higher than other areas even with Open Defecation (but low population density), but the kids who survive and live have a much lower height!
It is with this kind of background that one needs to look at Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Swachh Bharat Mission and its goal to get Indian cities and villages Open Defecation Free.
The Ministry of Urban Development and the other ministries are working towards making India and Open Defecation Free country by 2019.
The issue of Open Defecation is both in rural and urban areas
The practice of open defecation is not limited to rural India. It is found in urban areas too where the percentage of people who defecate in the open is 12 percent, while in rural settings it is about 65 percent.
The problem in rural India is really acute when it comes to open defecation.
The nation-wide rapid survey was conducted during May-June 2015, concurrently with the 72nd round of the NSS. The survey was to track the government’s flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The survey estimates that 52.1 per cent of people in rural India choose open defecation compared to 7.5 per cent in urban India.
In the survey, 45.3 per cent rural households reported having a sanitary toilet, while in urban areas, the figure stands at 88.8 per cent. The lowest percentage of households having sanitary toilets was reported in Jharkhand (18.8 per cent), Chhattisgarh (21.2 per cent) and Odisha (26.3 per cent). The States with the highest numbers were Sikkim (98.2 per cent), Kerala (97.6 per cent) and Mizoram (96.2 per cent).
Here is a graph that shows the percentage of open defecation in India vs the rest of the world, and the share of it in rural India. When we look at the numbers doing open defecation in India in rural India, we are talking about a population more than the whole United States! Imagine now, if the whole of US was to defecate openly – where would that leave sanitation in the US? And we in India are doing in FAR lesser space!
To understand how the problem of open defecation is so unique and so unusually bad to and in India, we need to take a look at this graph. It shows that poor countries generally have a problem with open defecation, but in India it is unusually high! So much that India is actually an outlier! Out of a total of One billion people who defecate in open globally, India’s share is 490 million! The other countries with high incidence are Indonesia (54 million), followed by Pakistan (41 million), Nigeria (39 million), Ethiopia (34 million), and Sudan (17 million).
Please check out this TED talk regarding how acute and bad the problem is in India.
What is Modi Government Doing About Open Defecation?
The Modi government started Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) in 2014, where making India Open Defecation Free by 2019 is the government’s goal. In this World Bank is also helping the states which become Open Defecation Free (ODF). For example, Himachal Pradesh in October 2016 became the 2nd state after Sikkim to become ODF and it will now receive funding to the tune of Rs 9000 crores from World Bank funding to help sustain sanitation campaign.
PM Modi had said “It is our social responsibility as citizens of India to help fulfil Gandhi’s vision of Clean India, by his 150th birth anniversary in 2019,”when starting the program off. It was a clarion call to make India Open Defecation Free by Oct 2019. Towards this, World Bank is contributing $1.5 billion to help achieve the ODF goal for India by 2019!
The Ministry of Urban Development is working towards this goal in the right earnest. The government gets applications for building toilets in the households, which are evaluated, approved – if found genuine – and then toilets are built there. All this is tracked via an uptodate portal with the latest figures. If someone wants to build an IHHL (Individual Household Latrine), one can download this form and send it to get the toilet/latrine built.
As of this morning, this is the snapshot of the latest status.
That’s 55% of all the approved applications have been executed and toilets have been built. Surely, it should have been more, but given that we are talking here about all the states including their government machinery and the coordination with the town/city level resources it is quite commendable. However, one thing that really makes one feel better is the focus on reporting on almost a real time basis. The figures are merely 2 days old!
So, by now 3 states have become Open Defecation Free – Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala. Three more are scheduled to announce very soon – Gujarat, Haryana and Uttarakhand. The progress of Chattisgarh is also extremely encouraging and it may join the ODF states very soon as well!
Ideological Rants from the Anti-Modi Gang
The ideological hatred for Modi within the anti-Modi gang is quite popular and we have discussed that often. But what is shocking is that even progress to eradicate the menace of Open Defecation, which kills so many kids and impacts the life of so many adversely is also criticized sans any understanding of the extent of the problem we are dealing with! Here is one such article in the online magazine The Wire.
Just remember that we are talking about providing toilets for a population of over 500 million – about 2 times that of US! And that within a matter of 5 years. That is no joke. This kind of undertaking with the kind of bureaucracy that India has makes it almost impossible, and yet the government is proceeding with full speed. In that context, this article talks about one small group of people who like to defecate in jungle and feel “forced” to do it in a toilet. And, about some folks like an old woman who feels she is restrained and claustrophobic in a toilet. This writer – Ajay TG – finds the lack of government machinery not bringing every such person who “feels like doing it outside because well that’s how they like it” into some kind of Change management program and working with their psychology as such a big fault.
First, defecating outside in public common lands or someone else’s property is NOT a fundamental right of anyone. That is a crime prima-facie and such a dangerously quirky behavior which puts lives of millions of kids in peril can neither be condoned nor justified! What had happened in the past was a reaction by these poor people to the utter lack of basic infrastructure. But the time has come to put it all behind us because it is killing millions of kids and stunting many more millions! It is a social danger – if we didn’t know it already!
One is not sure if this “journalist” (rather presstitute) has ever managed a team of people or done anything meaningful for people more than himself. Because if he had, then he would know the complete lack of perspective that he brings to his “journalism”!
Open Defecation Free (ODF) is not just a ‘Nice to Have’, but Critical for India’s Future
India accounts for over 50% of the world’s population practicing open defecation. A practice that brings a host of deadly diseases for the kids and adults alike. Not just that, it endangers the drinking water supplies in rural India making health worse. An entire generation is growing stunted thanks in a large measure to this menace.
Guys, this is NOT an exercise in optics of how India looks. But it goes to the core of how we want our future generation to be. In fact, be at all!! We are growing exponentially as a population and the ills of population density + Open Defecation start multiplying at this point. We would be utterly foolish and criminal if we leave the option of going ODF or not to people. No one has a choice. They should not and cannot for it is not about individuals. It is about our collective health!