The India Forum– a Journal Magazine on Contemporary Issues published our article “ Coercion, Construction, and ‘ODF Paper pe’: Swachha Bharat According to Local Officials.” This article is based on extensive qualitative interviews with government officials at the village and block levels across 11 districts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. These local officials were entrusted with the implementation of the Swachha Bharat Mission at their Panchayat/blocks.
The paper sheds light on how the SBM is implemented on the ground. As the title of the paper suggests, there is widespread use of threats and coercion for latrine construction. Not only the villagers, the officials at villages and blocks were also under a lot of pressure to meet their construction targets, often in a limited time period, or else they would lose their job. The government’s impatience in declaring villages, blocks, districts and, eventually states, and the entire country ODF (Open Defecation Free) meant that the focus was mostly on the latrine construction and not on its usage. However, we found that many places that had been declared ODF still had significant levels of open defecation- they were declared ODF only on paper.