India Moves Toward Sustainable ODF

Prime Minister Modi is working toward sustainable ODF.
Prime Minister Modi is working toward sustainable ODF which ends open defecation and build latrines for India.

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014 to overcome “the poor sanitation and related health concerns [that] have remained a major problem in India since the country’s independence 70 years ago.” and move India toward sustainable ODF.

One of the essential and fundamental elements of the Swachh Bharat Mission, aka the Clean India Campaign, is to reach the objective of making the entire nation open-defecation free (ODF) by October 2019. That’s a tall order for a country in which an estimated 569 million people have no access to or do not use toilets.

Swachh Bharat aims to build 100 million household and 500,000 community toilets. However, for many people, open defecation is a practice that is entrenched as a normal way of life. Change can be difficult. Officials realize that simply building these facilities is not sufficient to resolve the issue. They must also provide education and ensure compliance.

Education helps people to understand some of the problems inherent with open defecation. For instance, “Flies breeding and feeding on feces are one the main vehicles delivering infectious organisms back to humans; one gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, and over 1,000 parasitic cysts.”

Then there are incidents that happen, albeit less frequently, that can prove deadly to those who openly defecate. On Saturday night, 12 May 2018, a 55-year-old man in Ranchi was overrun by a train as he defecated in the dark along the tracks. Ironically, the man’s 25-year-old son died in a similar fashion just a few years ago.

Indian officials have clearly recognized that sustaining a public health campaign is just as important, if not more so, as implementing it. Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha recently launched the Swachhata Action Plan (SAP) 2018-2019. He “emphasized that all secretaries need to personally monitor implementation of SAP on a regular basis,’ with each union ministry going “beyond business as usual, implement[ing] innovative and outcome-based Swachhata activities.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has reported that more than 230 million people in villages throughout India have stopped defecating in the open over the past three years. The ministry’s focus now is that communities who  declare to be ODF remain ODF and that they “do not slip back” to their old ways. The ministry has trained and assigned ‘sanitation motivators’ in every village and is administering the treatment of waste as a government priority.

The Tribune News Service reported yesterday that 21 teams from the Panchkula Municipal Corporation have caught 35 violators in the last three months and imposed appropriate penalties.

It will take a combination of education and encouragement to ensure that one of the greatest paradigm shifts the world has ever seen is not only successful in the short-term but also sustainable for years to come. It is apparent that the officials in charge of the Swachh Bharat Mission understand this and are already implementing programs that will bring about the change of mindsets necessary to achieve these lofty and worthy goals.

To learn more about the issue of open defecation and sanitation, read the Gospel for Asia essay, Scandal of Open Defecation – Part 1 – and/or our Special Report on  Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation.


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Image Source:

  • GFA Special Report, Photo by narendramodiofficial on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0