ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Role of the Community

Freedom from Open Defecation

Open defecation is a major health hazard and causes enormous hardship, especially to rural women. Government funds for constructing toilets have to be supplemented with awareness campaigns to motivate ordinary people to do their part. Sarola, a village in Maharashtra, was able to become "open defecation free" with effective community participation, taking advantage of the Sant Gadgebaba Gram Swachhata Abhiyan. Toilets were built in every house, along with systematic management of solid waste. The village testifi es to the larger social benefi ts that can come from the efforts of a group of determined youth.

Statements by two heavyweight politicians (Jairam Ramesh and Narendra Modi) suggesting that toilets are more important to India than temples have attracted a lot of attention. They provided an opportunity for a well-informed debate on issues related to sanitation in the country, including why India is lagging behind even its poorer neighbour Bangladesh. For instance, Drèze and Sen (2013: 63) point out that the proportion of households with access to toilets in Bangladesh is 92% compared to 45% in India. Spears, Ghosh and Cumming (2013) find that more than 70% of households in India defecate in the open. The failure to effectively contain and manage human excreta is associated with a wide range of health problems and a large disease burden (Prüss-Üstün et al 2008).

Clearly, sanitation is one of the most important areas where effective government intervention is required today. In 1999, the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) was reintroduced as the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), and it is also known as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA). The government introduced a cash prize for villages that became fully “open defecation free” (ODF). After the launch of the TSC, state governments initiated their own programmes. For instance, the Government of Maharashtra introduced the Sant Gadgebaba Gram Swachhata Abhiyan (SGGSA). The SGGSA was launched along with other innovative ideas such as community participation through sub-programmes like Shahu, Phule and the Ambedkar Dalit Wasti Swachhata Abhiyan (SFADWSA), all under the umbrella of the NBA.

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