The Dainik Bhaskar (DB), a prominent Hindi language newspaper, published a comprehensive report on r.i.c.e and Accountability Initiative of Centre for Policy Research’s (CPR) new research on changes in open defecation in India: 2014-2018. We were thrilled that the DB helped us share this research with millions of readers by carrying this report in several editions across India. Here is the photo of the article. You can also find it here
For our non-Hindi readers, here are the main points covered in the DB report:
44 % people in Madhya Pradesh (MP), Uttar Pradesh (UP), Rajasthan and Bihar continue to defecate in the open, although this is an improvement of 26 per cent from what it was in 2014. This proportion remains despite MP and Rajasthan being declared open defecation free (ODF), and Bihar and Rajasthan are soon to be declared one!
The research survey visited 120 villages and covered about ten thousand people. Of the households that didn’t own a latrine in 2014, 57 % of them have a toilet now. However, the survey found the use of coercive tactics and force by the government machinery. People were threatened with the ration cuts or fines and were forced to build latrines; compared to General caste people, Dalits were twice as likely, and Adivasis were thrice as likely to face coercion.
The paper carried excerpts from their interview with Aashish: Caste system and untouchability are key reasons why open defecation exists in India. People believe that the task of cleaning toilets is reserved for those belonging to a specific caste. Therefore, these notions need to be tackled first.
Coercion is common; 56 per cent people in our survey admitted knowing about the threats and coercive tactics. In Bihar, one person was jailed for fifteen days, and his family had to pay a tip of 10000 to seek his release. In MP police visited those families who had refused to construct latrines. In Rajasthan, people were told that if they fail to build latrines then not only will their rations, pensions and other government benefits be stopped, their children’s names will also be taken out from the school registers. In UP there were orders by the district magistrate (DM) to stop people’s rations, and use other means to frighten people into constructing latrines.
The paper also reports that 23 % people (20 % women and 25 % men) defecate in the open despite owning a latrine. Overall, 39 % in UP, 60 % in Bihar, 25 % in MP and 53 % in Rajasthan defecate in the open, thus taking the total average to 44.
Open Defecation is responsible for the deaths of about two lakh children, every year, even before they reach their fifth birthday. It is the reason why the average height of Indian children is shorter compared to those of the poorer countries. Dean’s research shows that bacteria in the faecal matter hinder not only the physical but cognitive health of children as well. There is abundant research that shows that shorter people earn less than their taller counterparts.
The report also includes excerpts from Nazar’s interview: Government has shown haste in declaring the states as ODF. Post this declaration, the programs which are directed at motivating people to adopt toilets stop; MP and Rajasthan are clear examples of this, where such programs are no longer active. In such a situation, many more children would continue to see death.