PM Modi says rural India has declared itself open defecation free

  • In 60 months, over 60 crore people got access to toilets—after hearing this, the world is astonished, says Modi in Sabarmati
  • A sanitation survey conducted under World Bank supervision found that 90.4% of villages are open defecation free now and 93.1% of rural households have access to toilets

Neetu Chandra Sharma
Updated2 Oct 2019
Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Sabarmati Ashram on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, in Ahmedabad (Photo: PTI)
Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Sabarmati Ashram on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, in Ahmedabad (Photo: PTI)(PTI)

New Delhi: Rural India has declared itself open defecation free, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday as he marked the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati riverfront in Gujarat.

“Today, rural India, its people, have declared themselves open defecation free (ODF),” Modi said.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014 to make India open defecation free by October 2019 and achieve universal sanitation coverage.

In its 2019 manifesto, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pledged to ensure that every village has sustainable solid waste management systems and 100% disposal of liquid waste, with an emphasis on faecal sludge management and reuse of wastewater.

“In 60 months, more than 60 crore population got access to toilets, building more than 11 crore toilets—after hearing this, the world is astonished,” said Modi, who received the Global Goalkeeper Award in New York recently from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the sanitation scheme.

A sanitation survey conducted under World Bank supervision found that 90.4% of villages are open defecation free now and 93.1% of rural households have access to toilets. The World Health Organization estimates that this initiative has massively improved sanitation and hygiene levels, which in turn can potentially save thousands of lives by reducing the incidence of diarrhoea and malnutrition. When it reaches its full potential, the mission will also play an important role in reducing the incidence of communicable diseases in India.

Public health experts say that ensuring total open defecation free India will be a challenge. According to a survey by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics of over 3,235 households in four north Indian states in 2014 and 2018—four years after launch of Swachh Bharat—open defecation had come down by 26%, with an increase in the number of household toilets from 37% to 71%.

The survey also found that access to toilets didn’t necessarily mean the end of open defecation. The findings stated that 23% of people despite having a toilet were defecating in the open—including in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that have already been declared open defecation free states.

“The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been instrumental in saving over 300,000 lives in the last five years. Unsafe sanitation was responsible for almost 200 million cases of diarrhoea every year before the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched in 2014,” said Rajesh Ranjan Singh, chief operating officer, Wadhwani Institute for Sustainable Healthcare.

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