Today, the Economic Times wrote about the findings of an NSSO report on toilet use. The report reveals that just 46% of toilets built in rural India, and 50% of those built in urban India, are being used. According to ET sources, these findings were scheduled to be released on 2nd October, but were withheld by the government because of fear that it would become fodder for the Opposition.
The ET VIEW part of the article rightly highlights that construction alone is not enough. However, it incorrectly states that rural Indians could be nudged to use the latrine by providing adequate water supply. According to WHO and UNICEF statistics, 77 percent of rural households have access to improved water sources. While lack of water may be a contributing factor for open defecation in some specific water-scarce regions in India, it certainly cannot explain the fact that 60 percent of rural households defecate in the open.
The reason why rural Indians do not want to use the sorts of latrines that the government builds is because of beliefs in purity and pollution, and the practice of untouchability. Rural Indians do not want to empty the pits of these latrines because doing so would be considered highly polluting, and would be associated with manual scavenging. That’s why so few people use these latrines in the first place. Unfortunately, instead of a small nudge, it seems that a huge shove away from casteist beliefs is necessary to solve India’s open defecation problem.
Read the ET article here.