The magnitude of the challenge that India and its flagship program ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ aims to conquer is massive. It houses the world’s largest number of people (600 million) practicing open defecation. In 1981, only 1% of rural households reported toilet use. By 2011 this had increased to barely 31%. This slow improvement is related to the policies it has adopted to confront the challenge. India's sanitation policies have stubbornly remained fixated on the provision of toilet construction subsidies as their pivot despite the recognition of the fact that collective behaviour change is the key to securing an open defecation free environment.
The current Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is packaged as a result-oriented and time-bound programme to create an open defecation free India. It recognizes the importance of community approaches, primarily Community led Total Sanitation (CLTS) but continues to keep faith with toilet subsidies. While neighbouring country Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan have achieved their MGD sanitation target, India lags far behind. Will this new policy focus yield the desired results? What are the current challenges that the SBM continues to struggle with? What would be the ideal policy design and strategies for increasing sanitation coverage in India? Dr Kamal Kar will also share experiences from many African nations on their initiative towards achieving open defecation free national status.