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Tuesday, 21 February 2017


On 2nd October 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India Mission. The aim is to eliminate the practice of open defecation by October 2019 by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India.

However, building sanitation facilities is not enough to stop open defecation. As well as the providing of sanitation facilities, it must be ensured that they are in working condition, they must be kept clean and maintained properly. Dirty facilities become unused facilities. That is why creating awareness and understanding among people of the importance of the use and maintenance of sanitation facilities is fundamental. If people do not understand the importance of having, using and maintaining clean toilets, there will not be a behaviour change. Maintenance and use of facilities are great challenges.
Let us take the example of a public school of a village in Western Uttar Pradesh where recently new sanitation facilities have been built. Toilets are separated for boys and girls and seem to be functioning. However, taking a closer look at the inside of the sanitation facilities it is impossible not to notice that the hygienic conditions of the toilets are not appropriate; the floor is wet and dirty and there is no disposal for used sanitary napkins. That is when I have learnt that the people of the village in charge of the cleaning do not carry out properly their work and that the dust bin has been stolen from the toilets.
If toilets are not clean, there is a higher risk of infections and diseases. It can also happen that children would not be inclined to use them. As for girls going to school in their period, it is fundamental to have a place for the disposal of used sanitary napkins to ensure they can change them regularly and without feeling uncomfortable. Toilets need to be cleaned and provided with the essential tools. Attendance of children, particularly girls, improves when they can use good sanitation facilities. Children need to be taught to use, clean and maintain facilities. In addition, people that are in charge of cleaning have to understand the importance and necessity of proper hygienic conditions of toilets.
Creating awareness of the issue is the way to ensure the success of the Clean India Mission. There is no possibility for a behaviour change without it. Especially in the rural area, where is concentrated the 68.85% of the population, is important to make a change since 61% of the population still defecates outside, against the 10% living in the urban area. Open defecation is still practiced even if toilets has been provided. To solve this issue, awareness must be created among all the community. Maintaining clean sanitation facilities is a responsibility of every citizen and it requires the participation of everyone. Behaviour change and communication programmes are much more important than building toilets.

NGOs like Heeals are a fundamental part in the mobilisation and support of local groups. Organising workshops and other educational activities are an effective way to educate children and to include families and members of the community in the awareness process. They can help to develop shared norms in the community and to understand and support hygiene improvement in schools. Awareness raising and promotion in the community is the key for a successful result. 

-Heeals Intern

INDIA 2016, A Reference Annual, Compiled by New Media Wing, Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 2016.

First Experience In A Rural Village In Western Uttar Pradesh



First day of internship at Heeals (NGO, Gurgaon, India), first day in rural India. The three and a half hours car trip doesn’t reflect at all the small distance on the map, from Gurgaon to Greater Noida. We just passed through a congested and noisy Monday morning Delhi, and after a while the landscape changes… Just passed through a tollbooth like if it was a time machine, which has zapped us in a new dimension, where nature and silence permeate everything. Lush green fields replacing polluted and dirty streets, no more cars, just shouting children, cows and sometimes a bullock cart. How could it be possible?

We arrive at the village school and a group of 30 children, from 6 to 13 years old appears at the window grates, shy but still very excited. They are shouting “mam” (madam), trying to catch our attention, they want to know who we are and where are we coming from. First worried about how to approach to them, mostly for the linguistic barrier, we start to communicate with them thanks to our tutor and colleague Hindi translation and trough hand gestures. But the best way to break the ice is to play with them, and through our smiles, it is the easiest way to communicate with each other!
A couple of girls want us to see the new toilets that have been recently built outside the school. One proud and brave student takes me by the hand to take a look of the restrooms. They are pretty new, but not clean and there are no sinks to clean their hand or to drink some water.                                       
Next to the school there is a new hand pump, which has been built just 2/3 months ago, and which provides water for all purposes: to wash their hands, to clean toilets, but even used as drinking water. Having access to water near to the school already seems like a huge step for them, since before they had to take it from the village temple, but still this water has not been tested and is not safe to drink.
On the opposite field from the school, very close by, approximately 12 meters from the hand pump, there is a polluted pond with stagnant green water and insects floating on the surface. It's no great stretch to imagine that it is the same water that is provided to the pupils trough the hand pump, since the groundwater are more likely to be contaminated by the pond. 
Having access to safe drinking water should no more be seen as a service or as a commodity, but as a basic human right, that everyone should benefit from. The United Nations’ Human Right statement on right to water says “The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related diseases and it is provided for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements”.

Even though the access to improved sources of drinking water is increasing, still in 2008, 884 millions of people, especially from developing regions, were not able to have access to safe or unimproved-sources water. Moreover we should point out the disparities between urban and rural areas. Indeed while 94% of developing regions urban citizens have access to improved sources water, it is only 76% of rural population who can benefit from this basic need and the increase in the use of improved drinking-water sources is barely keeping with the massive city population growth.  
In India the right to safe drinking water is part of the right to life, which is contained in Article 21 of the Constitution. The 10t Five Year Plan (2002-2007) tried to cover urban areas basic needs, efficient operation and equitable distribution of water. Unfortunately, even in spite of the importance given to drinking water improvement, still 480 million of Indian citizens at that time hadn’t got access to safe drinking water, and India was ranked 133rd among 180 countries in regards to poor water availability.
Governments and local authorities should take care about this actively and provide primary basic human needs, such as access to clean drinking water, clean toilets and infrastructures where children can play.

Heeals Intern

UNICEF, World Health Organization, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water, 2010 update, p. 7.
YOJANA, WATER, September 2007, p. 10, “The India Water Portal”, Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam, Akshara Foundation (Bangalore), Pratham.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Modi's Swachh Bharat Mission Has Built More Than 3 Crore New Toilets - But Few People Are Using Them!

India is known as the defecation capital of the world with 638 million people defecating in the open. People have more mobile phones and easier access to banks than toilets. More than half of the Indian population does not wash their hands after defecation, making respiratory and gastrointestinal infections major killers among children and adults alike.
66 % of girls’ schools do not have a functioning female toilet in India resulting in a dropout rate of more than 40% after completing just year five.
Around 23 % of girls drop out of school every year in India due to lack of menstrual hygiene facilities including toilets.

Building toilets in rural India was one of the major promises Prime Minister Narendra Modi made during his speech from the Red Fort ramparts in his first Independence Day address on 15 August, 2014. 
The government has since moved with alacrity, claiming to have constructed around 3.36 crore countryside toilets across India under Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat mission. 
But a random assessment of the campaign shows that the ambitious move is plagued by crippling problems that threaten to offset the hopes among large swathes of population that seek hygienic living.
To gauge the programme’s success rate, Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation — the nodal agency for rural mission for the cleanliness campaign — engaged the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) for an impact assessment study. 

Sources in the ministry said that one of the most common complaints coming from states like Uttar Pradesh (UP) was the lack of acceptability and proper usage of the toilets built in remote rural areas. 
“Though several toilets have been built in this area, villagers still prefer going out into fields to attend nature’s call. At a few places, villagers have dumped the toilets under piles of husk. In some villages where they have constructed toilets, there is no proper waste management…so they are frustrated with the idea,” said an official in UP government, based in Badaun district, on the condition of anonymity. 
A villager in Bareilly district of UP admitted that he felt “suffocated inside an enclosed toilet” and couldn’t bring himself to excrete until he went to an open field. 

At least 50 per cent of the Indian population doesn’t have access to toilets. If we go to villages randomly, we will find one or the other problem. 
The reason is that sanitation is primarily a behavioural issue, to be undertaken by people themselves for their own good. The role of government is only to facilitate this positive change by providing incentives and assisting people. The SBM-G has a clear focus on behavioural change. 
Officials said the realisation by a person or community of the need to stop open defecation, and therefore take steps to construct and use toilets, is more important than a supply-driven approach. 
The Centre has also said that state governments have the flexibility to provide higher incentive for household toilets constructed by sources other than SBM-G. 
The construction of toilets is a major focal area for the Swachh Bharat programme, which aims to make India “open defecation-free” by 2019. 
It aims at constructing 12 crore toilets in rural India by October 2019 at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.
Some NGOs are also working as a helping hand in Swachh Bharat Mission like Heeals is creating awareness at grass root level, national and international level about sanitation, menstrual hygiene, toilets and unsafe drinking water, and its effect on female education and health. Alongside awareness campaigns, HEEALS organization also ensures that communities are equipped to tackle these issues, by providing toilets in the areas most at risk, and by providing things such as water purification tablets, water tanks, soap and sanitary towels for young girls.
But a single organization can't do this alone and government funding is far from easy to secure.
So, each one of us have to put the efforts to make swachh bharat mission successful. Together we can reach every mother, father, and child in our local communities.

Let’s hope that the aim of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan will be achieved very soon.

By-Abhinav Aggarwal 
Volunteer (Karnal)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Lack of sanitation facilities puts high burden on women

New Delhi, Jan 31 () Stating that lack of access to sanitation facilities puts disproportionate burden on women and girls, including threat to life besides nutritional risks, the Economic Survey today pitched for ensuring toilets in each household.
The pre-Budget Economic Survey 2016-17, tabled in Parliament today, also said to ensure safe and adequate sanitation, water security and hygiene -- the objectives of Swachh Bharat -- as part of a broader fundamental right to privacy for women is becoming a serious policy issue.
Stating that there is 'disproportionate burden' on women in households without toilets, the survey said it take several forms such as "threat to life and safety while going out for open defecation, reduction in food and water intake practices to minimise the need to exit the home to use toilets, polluted water leading to women and children dying from childbirth- related infections, and a host of other impacts".
Stressing the need for women's personal hygiene, the survey added it "is therefore important not just for better health outcomes but also for the intrinsic value in conferring freedom that comes from having control over their bodies, a kind of basic right to physical privacy".
It, however, said there is an improvement from 2011 when the Census reported that more than half of the country's population defecated in the open. More recent data shows about 60 per cent of rural households and 89 per cent of urban households have access to toilets.
Citing a recent study, the survey said in households with toilets, 62 per cent women reported use of the toilet "always", while only 52 per cent men reported exclusive usage in such households.
In rural households, the proportion of regular use by women was 56 per cent as against 43 per cent by men. In urban households, 75 per cent of women reported exclusive usage as compared with 72 per cent by men.
"What this pattern of usage suggests is that women and girl-children could take a key leadership role to play in Swachh Bharat's objective of creating defecation free communities, by nudging men and boys of the household to change their own defecation behaviors," it added.
The survey said recognising the positive behavioral patterns that women demonstrate upon obtaining access to sanitation services is critical.
"Equally, when these services are denied, they face considerable insecurity and nutritional risks. For this reason, ensuring safe and adequate sanitation, water security and hygiene the objectives of Swachh Bharat as part of a broader fundamental right to privacy is becoming a serious policy issue," it said.