Coercion used for toilet construction: survey

The News

  • According to a study on open defecation in 4 northern Indian states, the increase in the number of toilets constructed has not proportionately translated into reduction in open defecation.


  • The Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE) spearheaded the study named “Changes in open defecation in rural north India between 2014 and 2018”.
  • In the study the researchers conducted an outcome studied of the impact of Swacch Bharat Mission in 4 states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • The study included survey of over 9,812 people and 156 government officials in 2018.

Key Findings

Construction of Toilets has not translated to reduction in open defecation

  • According to the survey, the toilet ownership in the states under study increased from 37% in 2014 to 71% in 2018.
  • However 44% of them still defecate in the open.
  • In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh 53% and 25% respectively were estimated to be defecating in the open.
  • Further about 23% of those who own a latrine still defecated in the open, a figure that has remained unchanged since 2014.
  • 40% of households with latrine and 56% of all households had at least one family member defecating in the open.
  • In conclusion, while the stress is on latrine construction, use of latrines is not.

Failure of Swacch Bharat Mission in bringing about behavioural change

  • The study indicated that self-constructed toilets are more likely to be used
  • According to estimates, households that built their own latrines were 10% more likely to use them than others.
  • While 12% of all respondents reported coercion in their own households, 56% were aware of some coercion in their village
  • The coercive methods used toilet construction included fines, threat of denial of benefits, stopped from open defecation.
  • Further the Adivasis, Dalit households were more likely to face coercion.
  • This shows that the idea of purity-pollution is still rampant in India and thus the failure of community-led action plan like SBM.
  • Further Hindu households with latrines were more likely to defecate in the open than Muslim households.
  • This could be because Hindu households with smaller pits require frequent emptying which is associated with ‘caste impurity’.

Manually-Scavenged single pits are still preferred

  • About 40% had single pits, while twin pits were observed in only 25% of latrines.
  • Only 31% of the latrines had a containment chamber which is the most expensive of all toilet designs.

Problem with the study

  • The main issue raised by The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is the survey’s sample size and definitions.
  • Accordingly the study does not reflect the ground reality.
  • While Swacch Bharat Mission covers a population of nearly 5 crore households and 2.3 lakh villages in the four States, the survey was only based on 1,558 households in 157 villages.
  • The community action such as sanctions on open defecation from local level bodies like Nigrani Samitis and Gram Panchayat may not be considered as coercion.

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