All posts by Nidhi Khurana

An Insightful Article on SBM by Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph

We wanted to share this interesting article by Manini Chatterjee that came out in The Telegraph today.  Manini has talked about how the SBM fails to address the root causes of poor sanitation in India. SBM, as a sanitation campaign, has remained silent on the issue of manual scavenging, and has so far failed to address the links between caste and waste disposal.

She quotes Bezwada Wilson  (National convener of Safai Karamchari Andolan) to show how the campaign has failed to solve the bigger challenges that the sanitation problem in India faces at present- “there is an inexorable link between occupation and caste; the occupation of manual scavenging is linked with caste. We have to break the link between caste and occupation before we set out to achieve Swachh Bharat.”  She also questions the SBM’s focus on building toilets without having to say anything about improving the plight of people who do the cleaning jobs.

r.i.c.e. research has found that beliefs, values, and norms about purity and pollution contribute to the ubiquity and social acceptance of open defecation in India. In India, dealing with pit emptying has been linked to a job that lower caste people do. While the SBM is building latrines all over the country, getting people to use them will be difficult because few people are willing to empty their latrine pits themselves.

Manini concludes her article by saying that the SBM must give us pause to see the filth within.  That is, if the SBM is to succeed, people need to recognize the role of caste prejudice in shaping sanitation outcomes.

SARI Paper Presentation on October 10 at IIT, Delhi


r.i.c.e. is delighted to share that our execuitive Director, Diane Coffey, will be presenting a paper ‘Measuring Explicit Prejudice: Findings from Social Attitudes Research, India’ on 10th October at the seminar talks in IIT, Delhi .  The paper has been co-authored by Payal Hathi, Nidhi Khurana and Amit Thorat.  It uses the data from SARI survey, a phone survey being conduced by r.i.c.e in India.

Please join us for a discussion at the given venue.

Venue, Date and Timings:

The talk will be held at 3.30 PM on TUESDAY, 10 OCTOBER, in the HSS Committee Room, MS 610.

Abstract of the paper:

Measuring explicit prejudice, meaning measuring clearly stated
discriminatory attitudes and behaviors, is an important tool for
understanding discrimination in a society.  This working paper presents results about explicit prejudice against women and Dalits in Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan using newly collected mobile phone survey data.

For some of the indicators of explicit prejudice that we study, we
compare data from India with data collected in the United States.  These comparisons are useful both because of the parallels between casteism in India and racism in the United States and because declining explicit prejudice in the United States provides an opportunity to contextualize research on social attitudes and explicit prejudice more broadly.

For other indicators, we compare the mobile phone survey data with data from the India Human Development Survey, 2011.  This comparison allows us to validate the quality of the mobile phone survey data and to note that there has been little change over the past 5 years in the indicators that both surveys measure.

We document high levels of explicit prejudice against both women and Dalits and we reflect on the ways that these new data can enhance our understanding of social progress in India.


More media coverage for ‘Where India Goes’

We wanted to share some more media coverage that the book has got in other newspapers.

It got covered in The National Herald, that uses an extract from the chapter in the book that talks about the world view of the rural people in north India. This world view considers open defecation as clean and latrines as dirty. You can read it here.

The article in The Caravan magazine also uses an extract from the book that talks about how unpleasant it is for the upper caste to deal with the act of pit-emptying. You can read it here.

Media Coverage for ‘Where India Goes’

We wanted to share some of the media coverage that the book ‘Where India Goes’ has got so far.

An op-ed by Val Curtis in The Indian Express talks about the book in explaining the challenges that SBM faces in meeting its goals. You can read the story here.

The book was also covered in the Huffpost, which carried an excerpt from chapter 4.  You can read it here.

There was also a story by Anju Maskeri about the book in The Mid-Day, It talks about the different kinds of research in the book.  You can read it here.


Accountability Initiative releases its 2017 budget brief on Swacch Bharat Mission-Gramin

Accountability Initiative has released its 2017 budget brief report on SBM-Gramin.  According to the report, GOI allocation of SBM-G have increased over threefold since 2014-15. In FY 2016-17, 98 percent of the total expenditure incurred between April and January 10 was for the construction of individual household latrines.  Like the previous years, money spent on IEC was meagre. SBM-G guidelines require 8 percent of allocations to be utilized for IEC activities. However, in FY 2016-17, till 10 January 2017, only 1 percent of total expenditure had been on IEC activities. Access the full Budget Brief here.

Yamini Aiyer, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and director of the Accountability Initiative, writes about the constraints in achieving the country’s goal of achieving a Swachh Bharat in Live Mint. Apart from the government data, the article has used r.i.c.e.’s SARI data to show the lack of on-the-ground engagement in promoting toilet use. The SARI survey revealed that only 2.6% of respondents in rural Uttar Pradesh and 5.4% in Delhi were aware that the SBM promotes toilet use. Find this interesting article here.

Nikhil’s new article in Scroll

Nikhil’s new article in scroll is now online.

The article explains the link between India’s open defecation problem and manual scavenging. Nikhil has tried answering some of the critical questions that the problem of open defecation poses for us.

Read the full article here.

Village sanitation and child health: Effects and external validity in a randomized field experiment in rural India|Jeffrey Hammer and Dean Spears

This paper by Jeffrey and Dean reports a cluster randomized controlled trial of a village sanitation intervention conducted in rural Maharashtra,  designed to identify an effect of village sanitation on average child height. The paper got published on 20th April, 2016 in Journal of Health Economics.

Please read the article here. If you are not able to access the paper in the link provided, you can download the PDF from the research section of our website.

Three percentage point drop in IEC expenditure in 2015-16 SBM budget: Accountability Initiative

Using government data, policy brief by Accountability Initiative  reports on trends for SBM Gramin along  parameters such as allocations and expenditures, physical progress of toilets built, expenditures incurred under Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities.

 The report shows that construction of IHHL accounted for 97 per cent of total expenditure between April 2015 and February 2016. IEC expenditure, on the other hand, accounted for only 1 per cent of total expenditure. This is a 3 percentage point drop from FY 2014-15.

Find the report here.

PBS film on sanitation and stunted growth

The Global Health Frontiers series on sanitation talks about the effect of poor sanitation on physical and cognitive development of an individual. The film has featured an interview with our MD, Sangita Vyas and Research and Policy Manager, Nikhil Srivastav. The interview highlights that sanitation in India has a lot to do with the elements of purity and pollution. These notions of purity and pollution inherent in the caste system itself contribute a lot to the widespread open defecation in India.

Watch the full video here.

Dean’s paper on Caste and Life Satisfaction in EPW

Dean’s new paper on ‘Caste and Life Satisfaction’ got published in Economic and Political Weekly this week. The paper shows one of the evidence on relevance of caste in North India. Dean has used SQUAT data to show relationship of caste to a person’s life satisfaction and notion of well being.In addition to reporting the differences in life satisfaction across caste categories in rural North India, where the Dalits and Other Backward Classes experience lower levels of life satisfaction as compared to the upper castes, the article also examines whether these differences can be accounted for merely by the association of caste with poverty.

Find the full article here.


Economic Times writes about NSSO report showing very little use of SBM latrines

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.



A Story to Inform the Swatchh Bharat Mission

Here is an interesting story from SQUAT survey in Jodhpur that I would like to share today. This story has some implications for the upcoming ambitious Swatchh Bharat Mission Plan of NDA government.

“Purna Ram and Ram Deen (names changed) are two childhood friends belonging to two different castes. They are neighbors and went to same schools as well. Child marriage is a commonplace in Rajasthan and to comply with this tradition, they got married on the same day as well. Purna Ram, an upper caste guy and from a stronger economic background now studies in the Jodhpur city. Ram Deen, being the elder son in his family and belonging to humble background couldn’t continue with his studies. He is running a carpenter’s shop in the same village now. Purna Ram keeps on visiting the village and spends most of the time with his childhood friend.

Purna Ram’s family has three houses in a row where all his brothers and uncles live together. They have everything in their house including television, fridge, mobile phones, and big underground water storage tank but not a latrine. However, he has a good exposure to latrines owing to his moving to the city for education.

Ram Deen’s carpentry skill has enabled him to make fancy furniture for his house including a small temple room. Before his father died three years ago, they had to build a latrine because he was sick. Now that latrine doesn’t have a door. He claims that they are using this latrine even without a door.”

The Finance Minister of India has presented the new annual budget yesterday. Item 30 in the budget speech says:

“The need for sanitation is of utmost importance. Although the Central Government is providing resources within its means, the task of total sanitation cannot be achieved without the support of all. The Government intends to cover every household by total sanitation by the year 2019, the 150th year of the Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi through Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan.”

True! It’s a matter of “utmost importance”. And it surely requires everyone to come on the board to achieve total sanitation. We appreciate the nice intentions of the mission but we are asking ourselves whether it will be able to change people’s attitudes towards sanitation.

Earlier this week, Payal also talked about government’s misguided 100 day plan that requires building a toilet per second. But the story I just told suggests that construction alone will not be enough. Considering this story, the problem clearly is not the lack of resources to build a latrine but the attitude towards latrines. Variables like education, migration, resources, social position have less to do with you owning and using a latrine in rural India. In fact, it has more to do with situations of emergency, sickness, or out of concern for women’s modesty.

I hope the Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan will be able to take into account many such stories. A lot of messaging to change people’s behavior would be a good starting point. So till the time the mission comes up with its framework, keeping the fingers crossed!

Can Uttar Pradesh Ever Climb Its Sanitation Ladder?

The recent rape case of two minor girls in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh has called forth a need for toilet construction for women. Perhaps, there is an urgent need for toilets (for men as well as women) but more than that we need to promote their use through a sound political agenda. But for a state like Uttar Pradesh, this seems like a pie in the sky.

Since this is my native state, I want to share some of the highlights of the SQUAT fieldwork from here and show why the state has failed miserably in climbing the sanitation ladder. To begin with, the economic and social development of the state has suffered due to its administratively cumbersome size, lack of effective leadership and a long history of identity politics. It is also one of the most impoverished states of India with high child mortality rates, low female literacy rates and high population density. In terms of sanitation also, the state suffers from a crisis. About one-eighth of the total defecators in the world live in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone. As in other north Indian states, people in Uttar Pradesh often prefer to defecate in the open but the state’s unique political milieu has also contributed to the sanitation emergency.

After the demise of mainstream national parties in the state, two parties rose to power: Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, the first relying on Dalits/lower caste supporters and the second on the not-so-backward Yadav caste (constitutionally a backward caste in India). Ever since, the two have been in constant conflict with one another, yet in an unusual harmony such that one party takes over from other in each 5 year term.

Given their different vote banks, the two parties have different approaches towards rural development also, each favoring its own supporters. During the course of the SQUAT survey in Uttar Pradesh, we had the chance to visit Ambedkar villages which were targeted by BSP and Lohia villages which were targeted by SP. The differences between these villages are not just interesting but also useful to better understand the state’s poor performance in terms of sanitation.

The Ambedkar villages we visited were chosen under Dr. Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojana. The scheme was started by ex-CM Mayawati, who is herself a Dalit, to uplift the status of the lower caste people. Even the name was politically motivated and symbolized the icon of Dalit emancipation. But as soon as Akhilesh Yadav came to power in 2012, he scrapped the scheme by calling it castist and started a new scheme called Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Samagar Gram Vikas Yojana, which targeted the backward classes instead of SCs and STs. The name of this scheme was just as politically symbolic, harkening to the socialist thinker, though in practice the party has been promoting goondaraaj.

While the beneficiaries in both the schemes are different, the idea is quite the same: to augment the process of rural development. Toilet construction is an important component in both. Despite that both of the programs have a misguided theory of change that focuses on construction rather than use, Ambedkar villages seem to be doing better than Lohia villages. The Ambedkar villages we visited had toilets but only few were in use. Some people complained of having no door, or a small pit or no pit at all. The Lohia villages were even more disturbing. Very few villages covered under Lohia Samagara Gram Vikas Yojana had gotten toilets so far. The few toilets that had been built had walls as low as two feet. Though the present CM’s tenure is ongoing, I don’t expect him to perform miracles in another two years. Nonetheless, both the villages have done nothing to promote the toilet use.

In the village leader surveys as well, I observed that the local leaders of UP used to complain of the lack of cooperation by the state government for building toilets. They used to blame one or the other party saying that the constant back and forth between the BSP and SP always affects the flow of funds for implementation of policies in their village.

Now, if the trend continues in the next state election in 2017, Mayawati or someone from her party may be reelected. Or there is a small chance that the BJP will replicate its landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh and come to power in Lucknow. Well, whoever wins or whatever happens, we just hope that the new government will design policies in line with the needs of the state, not according to identity politics. A mass movement with a clear and consistent messaging is what UP needs to solve the large scale problem of open defecation. Let that message be strong enough to survive the political back and forth of UP’s two notorious parties!