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

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Open Defecation in India

An Assessment of Swachh Bharat Mission (2015–16 to 2019–21)

Universal access to safe sanitation by reducing subnational inequality is a huge challenge for a country like India. The union government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, intending to end the practice of open defecation by 2019. The article examines the current state and temporal changes in OD across subnational levels using data from the National Family Health Surveys 4 (2015–16) and 5 (2019–21). While the practice has decreased significantly, from 38.88% of households in 2015–16 to 19.36% in 2019–21, it remains relatively higher in central and eastern Indian states. The findings suggest further modification of the SBM project’s implementation strategies in these states.

The end of open defecation (OD) through access to better sanitation for all, is essential for the developing nations to improve health, well-being, and social status. Globally, 892 million people still practise OD, which is relatively higher in South Asian and African countries (WHO and UNICEF 2017). According to the census data, around 63.6% of households in India had no toilet facilities in 2001, which decreased to 53.1% in 2011. However, the rate of decadal reduction, from 2000 to 2012, of OD was less compared to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal (WHO and UNICEF 2017). As India failed to meet the sanitation target set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), from 2001 to 2015, it is a big challenge to achieve the same by 2030. At the end of the MDG era, that is the year 2015, 568 million people in India practised OD, which was 90% of the people who openly defecated in South Asia, as reported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). This equates to 50% of the global 1.2 billion people who practise OD. This number varies according to the place of residence and geographic regions in the country.

Several researchers have found a positive relationship between OD and the prevalence of undernutrition, height, diarrhoea, and soil-transmitted diseases among children in India (Spears et al 2013; Greenland et al 2015; Spears 2018; Rahman 2020; Vijayan and Ramanathan 2020; Ghosh et al 2021). Women practising OD have to face a higher risk of physical and psychological stress due to lack of privacy, hookworm infection, and diarrhoeal disease (Majumdar et al 2010; Hirve et al 2015; Sahoo et al 2015; Jadhav et al 2016). Therefore, examining the current status and temporal change of OD at the national and subnational levels is critical for developing future strategies for making a nation free of OD and the resulting negative consequences.

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Updated On : 7th Nov, 2023
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