research institute for compassionate economics

Coercion, construction, and ’ODF paper pe’: The Swachh Bharat Mission, according to local government officials

This article draws upon 156 qualitative interviews conducted with the village and block-level officials in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as on new quantitative survey data, to answer these questions. It finds that local officials used coercion to achieve latrine construction; that they were under substantial pressure from higher-ranking government officials; that they often organized contractors to construct latrines; that construction occurred quickly, at different times in different places; that the ODF declaration process did not ensure that villages were, in fact, open defecation free; and that although the SBM taught officials about twin pit latrines, the adoption of this safe, affordable technology by villagers was nevertheless limited.


These findings fill important gaps in today’s policy debates. Despite the fact that improving rural sanitation is critical to both improving health and spurring economic growth in India, and despite the nearly Rs. 34,000 crore that was allocated to the SBM-Gramin between 2014 and 2018 (Accountability Initiative, 2018), surprisingly little has been written about how the SBM operates in villages. Understanding SBM implementation is important both for public accountability and to inform future sanitation programs.

Download Published: India Forum (forthcoming)       Geography: India