on the theme of
“How to Make India Free From Open Defecation by 2019”
I would firstlike to congratulate and greet the admirableconveners, fellow speakers and delegates of this 5th Asia Pacific Housing Forum, which assumes a special significancein the light of Government of India’s landmark initiatives of ‘Open Defecation Free India by 2019’ and ‘Housing for All by 2022.’ I have been working in the sanitation sector since 1968, and my mandate is to speak on how to overcome India’s huge sanitation deficit.Poor sanitation and absence of hygienic toilets lead to environmental disaster as well as huge public health costs, which no developing country can afford. But a large part of India is still defecating in the open or using unsafe toilets, besides appalling lack of hygienic practices that we see all around us. In the following presentation, I am going to illustrate that if there is a political will, public zeal and private participation to take up sanitation as a national mission and create an effectual, result-oriented movement with 250,000 trained sanitation motivators, every household in India can have a toilet—and we can say goodbye to open defecation—by 2019.
Recognizing the fact that improved living cannot be ensured without improved sanitation as well as the growing public aspiration for safe toilet and clean environment, the present government has kicked off the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which is a national mission to make India’s streets, roads, and infrastructure clean by 2019. Apart from the ensuring general cleanliness and safe disposal or recycling of solid waste alongside bringing a behavioural change in people regarding healthy sanitary practices and public consciousness about the linkages of health and hygiene, the crucial—almost central—component of the mission is construction of toilets. Besides constrcting toilets in every school immediately, it plans to constrct 12 crore household toilets by October 2019. The aim is to provide every household a toilet and thus eliminate open defaction. Conversion of unsafe dry toilets to pour-flush toilets and eradication of manual scavenging are an integral part of the mission’s objective. It is atruly national and noble misssion, and if India eliminates open defecation by 2019, which is the promise of the government, it will indeed be a splendid achievement.
The proposed plan of sanitation has generated enormouspublic enthusiasm and expectations. But thelitmus test of leadership is notnoble intentions or utterances but the actual results produced. Everyone knows that the suceess of the Clean India Mission hinges on the elimination of open defecation.It is notimpossible, but the scale of the challenge—constructing 12 crore household toilets and thousands of public ones in schools and slums—is staggering. It will require not just the synergy between the political leadership, civil society and the corporate sector, but also people’s participation and a brilliantly thought out plan that can work on the ground. As an expert in the arena, I would like to share my vision about how we can construct all the required toilets by 2019,but before that I would like to briefly state Sulabh’s track-record from which we can derive valuable insights for the sanitation challenge.
Sulabh’s experience and success
In 1970, I founded SulabhInternational Social Service Organisationthat focused on two primary goals: to prevent environmental and water pollution by promoting cost-effective sanitation facilities, and to liberate the peopletraditionally engaged in manual cleaning of human excreta. During 45 years of our work, we have constructed 1.3 million household toilets and 8,000 community toilet complexes being used by 15 million people everyday. We have also liberated and rehabilitated thousands of manual scavengers.But the environmental pollutionremains a huge challenge, and an estimated 600 million Indians still lack toilets.Sulabh, however, has shown the way to overcome the problem.
I am happy to inform that Sulabh movement(of which I am the founder-leader) has beenactively involved in the Swachh Bharat since its inception. Actually, we have been carrying out the work to make Indiaclean for well over four decades. Driven by this commitment, we take sanitation as our mission, and our longstanding and massive work in this sector are testimony to this. In the Swachh Bharat campaign, we are contributing through our many-sided efforts for the generation of public conciousness. Thousands of Sulabh volunteers spread across the country are working as foot soldiers for spreading the idea and objective of the Swachh Bharat. Sulabh’s volunteers are very active in Varanasi, and contributing their mite in the Clean Ganga project. Sulabh is also doing the toilet-construction on the ground, as it has been doing over the years. Besides our usual work, in 2015, Sulabhhas constructed more than10,000 schools toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission. We aregetting some support from the corporate sector in building community and school toilets, though much more needs to be done by the India Inc and the NGOs if we are serious to provide every household a toilet and make India free from the malaise of open defaction.
It may be remembered that Sulabhnot only constructed toilets but also innovated an environmentally safe and cost-effective two-pit, pour-flush, on-site compost toilet (which could easily be constructed from locally available materials and thus with minimum cost), which has been recognized as one of the best global technologies for safe disposal of human waste. Also, the Sulabh model of pay-and-use community toilets in urban centres and an effective mechanism of maintenance have proved successful all over India. Apropos the Swacch Bharat, the following set of suggestions is not only based on our long and deep experience of work in the sanitation sector, but also takes into account implicitly why various government sanitation programmes initiated from time to time have not succeeded till now (though due to the space constraints, I will not be able to explain them directly here).
India needs 250,000 sanitation motivators
Our basic challenge is to build 12 crore household toilets by 2019, besides constructing toilets in all schools and public toilets in urban centres. We should begin with a vigorous cultural campaign for sanitation through all means of communications, in which the lead should come from the government agencies and the mass media. But my special proposal is to create and train a nationwide cadre of roughly 250,000 sanitation motivatorswho will create mass awareness about the need for construction of toilets and tell the people how to maintain them properly. The trained motivators will also monitor and supervise construction of individual household toilets. These motivators will work as a link between the beneficiary, Panchayat members and the financial institutions so that the programmeis properly planned, implemented and the toilet utilization progresses smoothly. India has a huge pool of unemployed educated youth; many of them are also eager to do something socially meaningful. It should be no problem to recruit the required trainee motivators. For this a productive partnership with the business houses and NGOs must be forged.
India has 690 districts, 5924blocks, 2.5 lakh Panchayats and 6,40,867 villages. Toconvinceand bring along the masses for toilet construction, we need one motivator for each panchayat. This means we need roughly 250,000 motivators and should be given Rs. 2000/- for motivation, education, communication, implementation, maintenance and follow-up. These motivators will have to be properly trained for carrying out their assigned task.
Selected NGO should be given Rs. 1000/- for coordination, monitoring and supervision.
Alongside the motivators, we will need to employ 500,000 masons to build the toilets.
To recruit and train 250,000 motivators and 500,000 masons will take time. But this must be accomplished by March 2016.
Thus, we have just three years to do all the work. We have 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. To meet the target, 250,000 motivators will have to build fifty lakh (50,00,000) toilets in a month, six crore (6,00,00,000) toilets in a year and eighteen crore (18,00,00,000) toilets in three years.
The money required to accomplish this mammoth task will be approximately Rs. 3,27,388crore—or to put it in rounded figure Rs. 3,30,000 crore.
In view of the sensitive Centre-State relations, I would suggest that this amount should be entrusted to the various banks situated in or around the Panchayats, so that the money should reach the beneficiary swiftly and without any hitch.
Besides the subsidy, the beneficiary should be provided loan from the banks on the least interest.
Presently, as per Government of India’s guidelines, the estimated cost of Individual Household Latrine (IHHL) is Rs. 12,000 with contribution from Government of India, State Government and beneficiary. As per the present cost of material, it is rather impossible to construct a good toilet functioning for at least 10 years at this cost. This needs to be enhanced in view of the current inflation to Rs. 25,000. The cost of construction of each of these individual toilets can vary and will be borne by individuals with cost being met through subsidy supplemented by bank loan. With numerous designs available to the beneficiary, he can choose one which suits his means. It is envisaged that a beneficiary will construct the toilet on loan-cum-subsidy basis.
The role of bank will be crucial
Subsidy to the beneficiary should be passed on through a bank that gives the loan and the bank before doing so will satisfy itself that the loan given to the beneficiary has been utilized properly. The point is, if the banks are directly involved then the financial burden on the government is limited to subsidy amount. The bank will ensure that there is physical achievement: only after the bank’s certification, the beneficiary will get the release of subsidy. Thus the banks too will become a stakeholder.
The role of bank is important because the usual financing pattern of funds being passed on to the state government and then to local bodies is very time-consuming and the progress is tardy as has often been witnessed. The government passing on the subsidy to the bank will not only mean its proper utilization but will also reach the right person and in addition will be an incentive to the bank to readily disburse the loan to a beneficiary. The Panchayat need not be involved in the release of subsidy. If the loan-cum-subsidy involves only the beneficiary and the bank, the physical achievement is ensured and the red tape is cut.
Partnership with NGOs
In this mission the role of NGOs and the motivators will be critical. The NGOs working in tandem with the motivators will ensure that tangible achievement takes place according to the expenditure shown. Their role will also be to take the technology to the beneficiary, and to ensure that dry latrines are replaced wherever they exist and new toilets constructed where there are none. In the verification of physical target being achieved, the system of reply paid postcard can be introduced whereby the beneficiary informs that the toilet has been constructed, also mentioning the defect, if any, so that the construction agency (that is, the NGO) can set right the defect. The NGO can also give guarantee for a given period of time to effect cost-free defect removal. Sulabh has practiced this system successfully over the years. Recently, nearly 12,000 toilets in rural areas of Punjab have been built on this basis.
Alongside the construction of household toilets, there will be construction of toilets in schools, the cost of which will vary depending upon the size and location of the school. The public toilets can vary from five seats to 35 seats. They will be built in public places and will be self-sustaining when run on pay-and-use basis. This will be valid for urban areas. The key to running a public toilet efficiently is its maintenance. This can be handled by NGOs in urban centres but in rural area the responsibility can be discharged by the Panchayat.
Summing up, if the above plan is implemented and a synergy is generated for the sanitation movement, it will ensure a combination of skill development, speedy implementation, and desired result produced. It will make India not only free from open defecation, but also generate employment for a large number of people in the form of sanitation motivators, masons, and artisans engaged in production of materials for toilet construction.