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Why it’s much easier for India to reach Mars rather than tackle its toilet issue

A majority of Indian households have access to mobile phones despite being unable to access other infrastructure.

On a more systemic level, economists have pointed out that commercial and technical accessibility and the acceptance of consumers to the invention are the primary factors that drive its spread. Both are evidently a problem in India.

For businesses, it makes sense for the company to offer mobile phones that come in a range of price ranges that are quality as the network infrastructure is built. The demand for this technology is guaranteed. However, they aren’t looking to sell low-cost toilets to those in need since the demand for this product isn’t backed by the willingness or ability to purchase it.

State programs for sanitation coverage

Since companies are not inclined to sell a product that needs investment in awareness and generating demand and demand creation, the government must take action.

From the mid-1980s to the end of 1990 the 1990s, after India implemented economic reforms, the distribution of toilets was gratis through the state-funded top-down Central Rural Sanitation Programme. However, the program, which believed that the availability of toilets would automatically translate into usage, was a failure because the majority of those who received it didn’t see the need or desire to have sanitation.

In the course of the new millennium, the Indian government began to shift its focus to demand-based interventions. The state today is a lender for public-private partnerships, which include NGOs, micro-finance businesses, and other social companies that collaborate in close contact with the intended beneficiaries to offer support and education on sanitation literacy and usage.

The Total Sanitation Campaign, which was launched in April 1999, stressed the need for “Information, Education and Communication” to precede sanitation construction to ensure long-term demand and behavioral change.

Open defecation spot in rural Chhattisgarh, central India. Adnan Abidi/Reuters

The state’s investment in sanitation has since been rewarded under the leadership of Prime Premier Narendra Modi. Modi is the first politician after Mahatma Gandhi to emphasize by means of massive media campaigns that a “clean India” is necessary for the well-being of its people.

Modi during a cleanliness drive in Assi Ghat Varanasi. Narendra Modi Official/FlickrCC BY-SA

On October 2, 2014, in celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, Modi inaugurated the Swachh Bharath Mission, also known as”the Clean India Mission. Contrary to the previous state-sponsored programs, they acknowledge it is true that “availability” does not guarantee “acceptability.” The main goal of the program is to end the practice of open defecation across India by the year 2019. This is not only to guarantee all sanitation facilities are available.

The goal is to turn cities and villages into “open defecation-free” communities; that is, they will demonstrate toilet accessibility, toilet usage, and toilet technologies that keep individuals and the environment in good health. The program invests in capacity building through the provision of skilled staff, financial incentives, and mechanisms for planning and monitoring to encourage behavioral change. States have the flexibility to choose the implementation of the program. Today, a range of tests, ranging from at the village to the national level, are being conducted to meet Modi’s Clean India mission.

It’s not only about making toilets.

However, for India, offering access to the toilet is the easiest part. The challenge is convincing people to go to the toilets. For rural communities, the rejection of bathrooms is different for men and women.

An ongoing study that analyzed 300 focus groups of men across the United States revealed men prefer to openly defecate over the toilet due to the fact that it conserves water and provides access to clean air and clean water, which reduces wear and tear on the bathroom; shields women from being embarrassed at the presence of males and provides a great excuse to avoid snoozing mother and wife.

Public agencies are trying to persuade households to put money into toilets to ensure the safety of their infant girls. However, within Tamil Nadu villages, another focus group-based study, that of girls and female teachers, found that one of the major benefits of defecation in public is that it allows for same-sex interactions between females.

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Jane S. King

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