Its no secret to anybody that open defecation is a serious stumbling block to the realisation of a ‘Swatch Bharat’ dream. Its simply a pan-Indian problem, is location agnostic (rural/urban divide hardly matters here) and several studies undertaken by renowned international agencies point out that it is a typical Indian problem with countries like Bangladesh and in sub-Saharan region having better defecation facilities.
Needless to say, adding toilets capacity on a massive scale is a top priority in Narendra Modi’s vision of Swatch Bharat and the idea has found willing takers in India Inc. The good news is: there are already examples to prove that with community involvement and right guidance relieving in the open can be checked to a considerable extent. The Block A, Nala Camp, Rangpuri Pahari near the posh Vasant Kunj locality in Delhi today stands as a glaring example of effective sensitization of the local populace on this critical issue.
Feedback Foundation, a trust which works in 13 states primarily in the area of improving urban and rural sanitation, with support from Caddie Hotels has transformed the area making it 100 percent Defecation Free in a matter of eight months. “ The Block situated at Vasant Kunj, South Delhi was no different than any other typical urban slum area, where 65-70 per cent people opted for open defecation. But, the area has gone into complete transformation and today no one in the area goes for open defecation,” says a senior official of Feedback Infra. The programme to make this locality open defecation free had started in September 2013 with an awareness campaign in the locality with an emphasis on the community-led development. Local “Nigrani Committees” were formed to monitor and rule out the practice of open defecation. These Committees also spearhead construction of toilets in their pockets and the cost of new toilets construction was borne by the community itself.
“ As first step to sanitation ladder, the Committee members conducted door to door visits and propagated construction of low cost toilet within houses and adoption of “Cat method” till the toilets were ready. The other agenda items of Nigrani Committee were educating and convincing people to refurbish/ upgrade unsafe toilets into safe ones and creating peer pressure with the help of tenants without toilets on landlords. They suggested tenants to share toilets with the landlord till separate toilets were built for the tenants,” Feedback Infra official explains the different stages of the programme.
Before the beginning of this sanitation drive in the Vasant Kunj slum, barely 30% of the nearly 97 households had individual toilets. And the remaining 70% population of this slum area had no choice but to defecate in the open with people using open areas, road sides, internal lanes, open drains in the slum for defecation purposes. Meanwhile, Feedback Foundation is now aiming to initiate a similar drive in Block B of the slum which has 130 households.