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The answer though, sanitation experts say, doesn’t lie only in building more bathrooms. First, people need to learn to love using the latrine.
“Many people regard open defecation as part of a wholesome, healthy, virtuous life,” a recent study conducted in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh found. Researchers at the New Delhi-based Research Institute for Compassionate Economics added that the practice is “not widely recognized among rural north Indians as a threat to health.”
Those five northern Indian states account for 45% of the country’s households without a toilet, according to data from the 2011 census. But even in homes where toilets were installed, many people still prefer to go outside.
The RICE study found that out of 3,235 rural homes fitted with a working toilet, over 40% had at least one member of the household who opted to defecate in the open. When asked why, almost 75% said they did so because it was pleasurable, comfortable and convenient.
Sangita Vyas, one of the authors of the RICE study, said this is partly because of the red tape involved in getting education campaigns approved. She worries it will be the same for Mr. Modi’s new mission.
When the money is spent, it’s not all being put to good use: Researchers point out that the government has failed to inform people about the adverse health effects of open defecation as it has done in campaigns to reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption.
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