Unrealistic approach killing rural sanitation programme

Unrealistic approach killing rural sanitation programme "Humne khule mein shauch jaane ki pratha chhod di hai (We have stopped defecating in the open)'. Painted against a whitewashed wall of the primary school in Baruki village, Uttar Pradesh's Bijnaur district, the slogan claims victory in the battle against this practice. But the reality is a little different: half-constructed walls, toilets without doors, a commode jammed into the ground, courtesy the centre's Total Sanitation Campaign (tsc), are common sights in the village. The battle is far from over.

"We have achieved reasonable success in tsc. People have been used to open defecation for ages and it is hard to change attitudes overnight. Cultural factors have hindered our work, but we have managed about 70 per cent sanitation coverage,' says Bijnaur district's panchayati raj officer, A K Shahi.

Baruki does not bear this out. Out of 2,000 houses, only 269 have toilets.As for "cultural factors', discussions reveal a real demand for household sanitation: villagers don't have any innate desire to defecate in the open. Women and elderly people are especially keen on toilets at home. "It's embarrassing for women to go into the fields,' says Baruki's Mamra Singh.

Need for realism A report by the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission estimates 30 million people in rural areas suffer from sanitation-related diseases. In economic terms, these cause a loss of 180 million man-days and Rs 1,200 crore annually.

In 1981, it was reckoned that only 1 per cent of rural India had sanitation facilities. In 1986, the first structured programme for rural sanitation

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