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Archive for Aashish Gupta

Working Paper: Reporting and incidence of violence against women in India.

Written by on October 18th, 2014

  Sanitation has dominated the r.i.c.e blog for sometime, but this paper on violence against women has been pending for an equally long time too. I finally revised it, and its online now. The paper, which estimates the proportion of cases of violence against women which are actually reported to the police, is available here. I am pasting below the abstract of the paper.

Using data from the National Crime Records Bureau and the National Family Health Surveys, this article estimates, conservatively, the under-reporting of violence against women in India. I calculate under-reporting of sexual and physical violence, both for violence committed by “men other than survivor’s husband” and violence committed by husbands. In 2005, only about six of every hundred incidents of sexual violence committed by “men other than the survivor’s husband” are estimated to be reported to the police. Most incidents of sexual violence, however, were committed by husbands of the survivors: the number of women who experienced sexual violence by husbands was forty times the number of women who experienced sexual violence by non-intimate perpetrators. Less than 1% of the incidents of sexual violence by husbands were reported to the police. Similarly, only about 1% of the incidents of physical violence by other men, and 2% of the incidents of physical violence by husbands were reported. These striking findings shed further light on the presence of endemic violence against women in India, and reveal the extent of the obstacles confronted by women in reporting violence.

The working paper will benefit from your comments, so if you have any, please feel free to write to me at [email protected] Your comments will help me revise the paper. If you like the paper, do share it. I have written it with the hope that it would be of use to the feminist movement in India. Thanks.

Payal’s article for IndiaSpend: The Trouble With India’s $22 Billion Toilet Gamble

Written by on October 18th, 2014

IndiaSpend, the data journalism website, published an article by Payal. Here is the article. The full text of the article is also pasted below.

The Narendra Modi Government has announced that Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) has to be a mass movement to make India open defecation free in five years. By spending Rs 1.34 lakh crore ($22 billion) to build about  110 million toilets across the country, “the pet project of the Prime Minister will be executed on a war footing with the involvement of every gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zila parishad in the country, besides roping in large sections of rural population and school teachers and students in this endeavor.”

While it is commendable that the Government has set high ambitions, it is worth exploring how they plan to reach the goal.  Unfortunately, plans for SBM don’t look very different from the erstwhile Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA).  The priority is still on construction, perhaps even more so than before, and so does not appear to be as significant a break from the past as hoped.

One important change in the new SBM is its increased budget.  110 million is the number of rural households that have no toilet facilities. So, much of the enlarged budget will go towards building a new toilet for every rural household in India without one.  This may seem like a good idea to those who argue that having a latrine is a prerequisite to using one but we at Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (r.i.c.e.)would argue that there’s something that needs to happen even before that. We recently conducted the Sanitation Quality, Use, Access, and Trends (SQUAT) Survey in over 3,000 households in rural north India to explore people’s sanitation attitudes and practices.

We found that many people in households with working latrines choose to defecate in the open anyway.  To reach these people, we need to create a desire in them to actually have and use a toilet even before they physically get or make one.  Access to toilets alone will not solve the problem of open defecation when many people simply prefer to defecate in the open.  Is the Government really prepared to waste resources?

Not only are more toilets to be built but at Rs 12,000 each, they cost Rs 2,000 more than each toilet built under NBA.  As a simple exercise, we calculated that if the Government hired one dedicated behavior change staff member for 700,000 villages, five staff members in each of the 6,000 block offices and one staff member in each of the 600 districts, for five years, it would cost less than one-fifth of what it would cost to build a Rs 12,000 toilet for every household without one in rural India. Not only does it make practical sense to focus on changing people’s minds, it also makes financial sense.

Rather than motivating people to want and use their latrines, SBM is actually worse than NBA in terms of behavior change because the information, education, and communication (IEC) allocation has declined from 15% to just 8% of the budget.  While it may be true that this is a larger monetary amount than previously allocated (because the SBM’s entire budget is much larger than that of the NBA), the reduction is symbolic in terms of the importance given to changing people’s minds and sanitation practices versus construction.  The language of the new policy indicates that “behaviour change and usage of toilets shall be given top priority to ensure increased demand,” but given budgetary allocations, this seems even less possible now than it was under the NBA.

It is useful to reflect on how much money has actually been allocated, only for the construction of new toilets in rural India.  Per year, the projected construction allocation under just the rural part of the SBM is more than 9 times the 2013-14 NBA expenditure and close to three-fourths of 2013-14 employment guarantee programme (NREGA) expenditure. These numbers are enormous.  And still, the question remains whether the Government will actually be able to spend whatever money ultimately gets allocated.

Of the cumulative funds allocated to NBA and its predecessor, Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), till date, the Government has been able to spend only 84% for household construction and 45% for IEC.  Without hiring more ground staff to increase what the Government has the capacity to spend, it is unlikely that SBM will be able to make faster progress than previous sanitation efforts.

For now, it appears that construction will yet again trump behavior change in SBM.  Since the full set of guidelines for SBM is yet to be released, there is still an opportunity for the Government to change course, ensure that funds allocated to behavior change are actually spent and make sure that only toilets that are constructed are those that will be used.

(Payal Hathi is a researcher and associate director at the research institute for compassionate economics)

Payal was quoted in the Hindu!

Written by on October 16th, 2014

The article, written by Rukmini S had the funny but tragic but true headline, Toilets on Paper. Here is the section which quotes Payal:

The other thing that will change, the government says, is an emphasis on behavioural change. Over the last year, a series of research studies have shown that not everyone who gets a toilet uses it — 40 per cent of the households with access to toilets had at least one family member not using it, economists from RICE found in a five-State study.

The government says this will change. “Building toilets and effecting behaviour change — these are the two prongs of the strategy,” Sandhya Singh, Joint Director of the SBA (Rural), said. Yet, as RICE economist Payal Hathi points out, funding for the information, education and communication segment of the scheme has fallen from 15 per cent to 8 per cent as a proportion of total funds spent.

“With the SBA, this new government has the opportunity to do things differently and put India on a better trajectory … the government will need to increase its capacity to carry out the important work of changing people’s attitudes about latrine use, and make clear that the use of latrines is more important than simply constructing them,” Ms. Hathi said.

Why many Indians can’t stand to use a toilet

Written by on October 8th, 2014

Atish Patel, while writing for the the Wall Street Journal’s India blog “India Real Time” just wrote an article covering rice research on sanitation.

Image courtesy: WSJ


Here are some quotes from the article:

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.

Read the article here.

Mani Shankar Aiyer quotes us!

Written by on October 8th, 2014

This is what he has to say!

Had he a head for anything other than the trivial, Modi would not have been looking for film stars (and comprador Congressmen) as “brand ambassadors”, but summoning the hard working authors of the SQUAT survey to learn what has gone right and how much has gone wrong with the sanitation programmes we already have and what we need to do to get the strategy right. SQUAT, incidentally, stands for Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends. The survey has been undertaken by New Delhi’s Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, and the two young authors, Aashish Gupta and Payal Hathi, have summarised their findings in an article published the day after the launch in The Indian Express.

You can read the full article here.

The BBC just wrote an article about our research!

Written by on October 7th, 2014
Indian residents arrive to defecate in an open field in a village in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh.

Image Courtesy: BBC


The BBC just wrote an article featuring a lot of r.i.c.e. research. Check it out here. Here are some quotes from the article:

A staggering 70% of Indians living in villages – or some 550 million people – defecate in the open. Even 13% of urban households do so. Open defecation continues to be high despite decades of sustained economic growth – and despite the obvious and glaring health hazards.

The situation is so bad that open defecation is more common in India than in that are poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Burundi and Rwanda.

But building toilets may not be enough to end open defecation in India, a new study has found.

A team of researchers asked people in 3,235 rural households in five north Indian states where they defecate and their attitudes to it.

Some 40% of Indians live in these states – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. They also account for 45% of households without a toilet. Also, a third of all people worldwide who defecate in the open live in these five states.

The study found that people in households with working toilets continue to defecate in the open, and that toilets provided by the state are especially unlikely to be used.

“In short,” the study says, “we find that many people have a revealed preference for open defecating such that merely providing latrine access without promoting latrine use is unlikely to importantly reduce open defecation.”

The study found open defecation is very common, even in households with toilets. Toilet use did not necessarily increase with prosperity: in Haryana, one of India’s richest states, most people in the villages continue to defecate in the open. Also, men living in households with toilets are more likely to defecate in the open than women.

Why do so many Indians still prefer not to use toilets, even if they are available?

The survey found a range of replies – most said they found it “pleasurable, comfortable, or convenient”. Others said it “provides them an opportunity to take a morning walk, see their fields and take in the fresh air”. Still others regarded open defecation as “part of a wholesome, healthy virtuous life”.

Further, they also link to our Sanitation Sena op-ed.

So how do you promote behavioural and cultural change?

India, researchers say, “needs a massive campaign to change sanitation preferences” and promote toilets by linking sanitation behaviour with health. One of the ways it can be done is by raising an army of sanitation workers and campaigners in the villages to spread the message.

Finally, the article concludes by saying:

Mr Modi has announced plans to build more than 100 million toilets in the country to end a shameful practice. But many believe the money will not be well spent unless it’s accompanied by a massive awareness campaign, involving the government, non-profit groups and citizens.

Exactly right!

We are presenting SQUAT (and other papers) at the University of North Carolina

Written by on October 6th, 2014


We are presenting SQUAT and Switching Study results at the UNC Water and Health Conference. Many of our sanitation related posters are also a part of the poster presentations. If you are there, we would be happy to talk to you. For our blog readers, and twitter and facebook followers, we will post photos and updates from the event. See the full agenda of the “Confronting the Challenge” sub-event here, and know more about the Water and Health Conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill here.

Nikhil’s governance now article is now available online

Written by on October 6th, 2014

Nikhil’s article for the magazine GovernanceNow, which provides a very neat summary of a lot of our research in a very compact and easy to read format, is now available online. See here. However the online version does not contain the maps, unlike the very well-formatted pdf version of the article, and the print version of the magazine itself. For those, see this pdf.

How to end open defecation by 2019? Check out the SQUAT Policy Brief No. 1

Written by on October 5th, 2014

If you have been looking for ideas on ending open defecation by 2019, look no further than the SQUAT Policy Brief No. 1. We have thought a lot about the ideas and action points in the policy brief, and believe that doing well on all these action points and key messages is the least that is required to eliminate the practice of open defecation before 2019. The least, because ending open defecation before 2019 is no easy task. We also discuss a few myths associated with latrine use and open defecation in the brief.

Check it out here.

Payal’s article in Scroll: Why community toilets won’t reduce open defecation in rural India

Written by on October 5th, 2014

These days, we end up writing so many articles that we miss some of them on this blog. We are sorry. One such article was by Payal, written for the cool website scroll.in. The full text of the article is appended below (they also used our photo).

Photo Credit: r.i.c.e.

Imagine that you are from rural Uttar Pradesh. You live in a kaccha house with your family, with your brother’s family living next door. You have defecated in the open your whole life. It’s something that you consider to be good, even healthy: going out in the open early in the morning gives you the chance to take a walk, get some fresh air, check on your fields, and meet your neighbors.

Then one day, your brother decides to build a latrine for his family. He invests a fair amount of money into it, making sure that it has a large pit and pucca walls. Only some members of his family use the latrine, like his pregnant daughter-in-law, since everyone else prefers to go outside. Although a latrine has been constructed just next door, that too in your brother’s home, you would never consider using it regularly. It might be alright to use it “in emergencies” but otherwise, you and your family continue to defecate in the open every day.

With the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission today, there are many who are vigorously advocating community latrines as a real policy solution to ending open defecation in India. The idea is that if we can build a few toilets for use in rural communities, where close to 90% of India’s open defecation occurs, then people without latrines in their homes can use them to avoid going out in the open. But the story above is a common one. In addition to widespread lack of demand for latrine use and social fragmentation that makes the maintenance of shared latrines difficult, there is a clear discomfort in rural India around the idea of sharing latrines, making community latrines unlikely to work.

SQUAT survey

My colleagues and I at the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics recently conducted a survey of sanitation attitudes and practices in over 3,200 households in rural Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Haryana (the SQUAT Survey).  What we found is that people in rural north India very often do not use, and definitely do not share, their latrines.

There are a few important reasons why community latrines in rural India are unlikely to reduce open defecation.  First, many people who have latrines in their own homes continue to defecate in the open, so it is misguided to assume that they would use a community latrine if it were available.  In our survey, over 40% of households with a working latrine had at least one member who still defecates in the open.  In fact, almost half of people who defecate in the open say that they do so because it is pleasurable, comfortable, or convenient.  They are not interested in someone building them a toilet, and so a community toilet will not suddenly make them want to use one.

Wrong focus

Second, people in rural India do not share latrines. According to 2012 UNICEF/WHO data, while 20% of urban households without a household latrine used a shared or public toilet, only 5% of rural households did. Our survey similarly showed how infrequent latrine sharing is in rural India: less than 1% of households without a latrine use a community latrine. The discomfort with latrine sharing is demonstrated clearly by the fact that only 7% of households in our study that have a working latrine reported that non-household members also use it. We spoke to many households, like the one above, in which even brothers living next door to one another don’t share their latrines. Though it is possible that attitudes can change, sharing latrines is incredibly uncommon, suggesting how difficult it will be to make community latrines a palatable alternative to open defecation, if we can manage to convince people to want to use a latrine at all.

And third, it is naïve to simplify villages into homogenous communities that live in harmony and care for the wellbeing of all their neighbors. Rather, people are divided along lines of gender, religion, caste, and economic status that make cooperation complicated. Community or public toilets in urban India are difficult to keep in good condition, but still might be a good solution for the urban context. However, it is improbable to assume that people in rural India will use community toilets, coming together to maintain them so that they are available for those who need them. With such deep divisions, in an environment where latrine sharing is already so rare, why would entire villages share them?

What India needs is a Latrine Use Revolution. Community toilets are just another construction-focused solution to the problem of open defecation. As long as people continue to resist building and using latrines in their own homes, or in the homes of their family members, they will not use community latrines. Let’s shift the focus of the upcoming Swacch Bharat Mission to changing behavior, and convince every rural Indian that they want to use a latrine rather than go in the open.  Only then will we truly make progress on making India free of open defecation by 2019

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