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Launch: Changes in open defecation in rural north India: 2014 - 2018

Events2 min read

India Habitat Centre, Magnolia Hall, New Delhi

We are writing to share that the research institute for compassionate economics (r.i.c.e.) and Accountability Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research are releasing a new research paper: “Changes in open defecation in rural north India: 2014 – 2018.” We would also like to invite you to attend the launch of the paper, on 9th Jan, 2018, 3:00-6:00pm, India Habitat Centre, Magnolia Hall, New Delhi. The paper reports on two surveys. The first survey visited rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh in late 2018. It collected data on 9,812 people and interviewed 156 local government officials. The second survey, in Udaipur district, visited 505 households in 19 villages and 60 households in 2 census towns. This new research sheds light on what the Swachh Bharat Mission did and on changes in open defecation since 2014. It is informative about changes because researchers revisited families who participated in a 2014 survey. Conclusions from the 2014 survey were published in EPW. Much open defecation remains. 44% of rural people over two years old in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh defecate in the open. This is an improvement: 70% of rural people in the 2014 survey defecated in the open. Almost a quarter of people in households with latrines nevertheless defecate in the open. This fraction is unchanged from 2014. In its activities and results, the SBM was diverse. Across the four states, many new latrines were constructed. 57% of households without a latrine in 2014 had one by 2018. States differ in the percent of households that received government support for latrine construction. States also differ in whether households constructed latrines themselves or received them from contractors organised by local government officials. People in households that received money to build their own latrine, rather than a government-constructed latrine, were almost 10 percentage points less likely to defecate in the open. If sustained, the SBM’s reduction in open defecation is likely to improve health, but it comes at a social cost. Coercion and threats were commonplace and sanctioned by local officials; violence sometimes occurred. Over half of respondents had heard of coercion in their village: people being stopped while defecating in the open, government benefits being threatened, and fines. Among households that own a latrine, Dalits are over twice as likely to report experiencing one of these three forms of coercion. Adivasis were almost three times as likely. The working paper is available here. We hope to see you at the launch on 9th Jan!


r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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