Towards Rural Sanitation Sulabh Sets New Trends


dr-bindeshwar-pathakSulabh has taken up a programme of rural sanitation in 350 districts of the country, where volunteers have been trained in the technology, methodology implementation and follow-up work. Masons have been trained. Pans and water seals have been made available at various centres so that people of the area can have the facility to construct toilets to suit their income and choice. The cost ranges from US$ 10 to US$ 600.

A campaign has been launched to make the people in rural areas aware of the fact that they should not go barefoot for open defecation; should put soil on human excreta after defecation so that flies do not sit on excreta and, in turn, on the food, which is the main cause of diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera etc. Literature has been published in 18 languages of the country and social workers distribute them to the beneficiaries. The mass communication workers perform dramas, mono acts, hold painting competitions in schools, to promote awareness. A full-fledged two-hour feature film has been made to make the people aware of the importance of sanitation. The film will also provide entertainment. In rural areas, most children suffer from worm infestation viz. hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm etc. Apart from other medicines available, people are advised to take Anjir (fig.); to take it themselves and also give to children – one in the morning after putting it for the whole night in water. This kills bacteria responsible for growth of worms – a cost effective device.

Most schools in rural areas do not have toilets for children. Consequently, boys and girls face a lot of difficulty. This increases drop-out rates particularly of girl students. Apart from the Government programmes, Sulabh has initiated a programme to get toilets constructed in schools by taking donations from private people as well as NRIs. Within 10 years, every school in India will be provided with Sulabh toilet facilities in this way. Teachers and students are also taught how to keep the toilets clean. Children are given responsibility by turns to maintain the toilets and teachers also inspect and supervise by turns. The number of toilets is as per the strength of the students. As already mentioned various programmes such as health check-up camps, rural sanitation etc. have been taken up in villages in Maharashtra, Uttaranchal and Haryana. For the speedy implementation of sanitation programme in rural areas Sulabh has made the following proposals:

  1. A nation-wide campaign is necessary to make people aware of the adverse effects of open air defecation which is responsible for infections and a number of diseases. The people should be motivated not to be bare-footed while going for open defecation as this will save them from parasitic diseases. This type of education will be necessary until adequate toilet facilities are available in the villages.
  2. People in rural areas going for open defecation should be educated to put soil on human excreta after defecation so that flies may not sit on the night soil and become carriers of diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, dehydration and cholera etc. which are responsible for the death of about half a million children every year in the country.
  3. Experience shows that it is not practicable to impose any uniform design of a toilet on users. There should be several designs of pour flush toilets meant for families below poverty line or those belonging to middle income group or higher income groups. (Sulabh has prepared 46 designs which form part of its Project Report). The choice of designs should be left to beneficiaries who will take a decision, keeping in view their resources.
  4. The possible help either in the form of subsidy or loan or both should be extended to all beneficiaries who want to have toilets in their homes irrespective of income groups. The criteria for the selection should be first-come first- served.
  5. The programme of construction of toilets in rural areas is linked to making people aware of sanitation standards and the adverse health impact of insanitary conditions which require house-to-house contacts and follow-up. This can only be done effectively by NGOs. The role of NGOs is, thus, very crucial in the implementation of the sanitation programme throughout the country.
  6. The NGOs should be identified either by the State Governments or the District Administration. The selection of NGOs should be based on their experience, expertise and infrastructure.
  7. The NGOs identified for implementation of the programme should be given proper training in various aspects of the programme. A comprehensive programme of giving them training at various levels has been prepared which forms part of the Project Report.
  8. The entire range of training starting with information, education, communication implementation and follow-up should be given to the same NGO. It has been experienced that if the work is divided among various organisations, it becomes a case of divided responsibilities that hamper progress of the work.
  9. The NGOs selected for sanitation work should be allowed 15% of the estimated cost of the IEC activities, including implementation and follow up services. In addition, 10% of the project cost should be allowed for training and support services, like publicity which would include printing of booklets, literatures, posters, organising dramas and nukkad plays etc. For setting up sanitary marts and production centres, subsidy as admissible under Government of India Sanitation Programme should also be paid to the NGOs.
  10. Interest-free bank loans should be provided to all beneficiaries who want to have toilets in their houses.
  11. A nation-wide campaign should be launched through media for generating demand for safe hygienic toilets. The people would, thus, be saved from diseases which occur on account of open air defecation and insanitary toilets. The women will also be saved from the agony and humiliation of open air defecation. Apart from a door-to-door campaign, it will be the responsibility of NGOs to publish literature in local languages and make them available to the people. For a wide publicity of the sanitation programme among the beneficiaries through pamphlets, booklets, calendars, etc. 10% should be given to the same NGO which will be identified for implementation of the sanitation programme.
  12. The implementation of the programme will require social mobilisation on a large scale which will include people belonging to various groups. Politicians and policy makers will have to be involved in a big way so that they can take interest in policy decisions in favour of sanitation programmes. The social mobilisation would also include village elders, doctors, lawyers and school teachers. Print media, radio and television will have to be fully involved in the implementation of the programmes.
  13. School sanitation will form an important component of the programme as it is through school teachers and students that the message of sanitary toilets will reach the villages. The NGOs which have been identified by the State Governments or district administration, in a particular area for construction of toilets, should also be allowed to do construction and maintenance work of toilets in schools in that area, as also to impart training about construction and maintenance to teachers and students.
  14. Public toilets in rural areas are generally not favoured. Public toilets, however, should be constructed near Panchayat Bhawans, village markets, health centres, bus-stands and other public places where people congregate in large numbers. Such public toilets shall be constructed by NGOs and maintained by them on a ‘pay & use basis.’
  15. The following recommendations of the Planning Commission in the 10th Five Year Plan should be accepted in implementation of the rural sanitation programme successfully.
  • Under the existing arrangement subsidy is available only for substructure. The Planning Commission has re-commended that the subsidy should be inclusive of sub and super structure for the basic twin-pit pour-flush system.
  • The subsidy for low-cost household toilets should be given to rural families below poverty line and it should be at par with subsidy in the urban households. The Planning Commission has recommended that the present subsidy level should be increased to 50%.