Open defecation is a practice which is unrestrained in India and the country is home to the world’s largest population of people who defecate in the open and nearly half the population of India, defecate in the open. India accounts for 90 per cent of the people in South Asia and 59 per cent of the 1.1 billion people in the world who practice open defecation. A very lower proportion of India’s rural population uses toilet and in fact about 65 per cent of people in rural areas do not have access to toilets which is one of the main reasons why India loses more than 6,00,000 children under the age of five year due to diarrhea and pneumonia.
Keeping this scenario in forefront, the Government of India in collaboration with UNICEF, is planning to make India “Open Defecation Free” by 2019 which will add to the “Swatchh Bharat Mission”. The Swatchh Bharat Missionpromises 110 million toilets built in the next five years in an effort to make India an open defecation free country. Collectively this will help to stimulate the creation of a new social norm—an India where nobody accepts open defecation and everyone uses a toilet!
Until now, a total of 157 districts in India have become “Open Defecation Free” and recently Deogarh, the smallest district in Odisha in terms of population became the 158th district in the country to become open-defecation free. PurnaChanndraPathy, Collector, Deogarh, said “Voluntary squads in each panchayat would conduct surprise checks. Flowers and gifts will be given to those families who use toilets regularly. And if a family is not using a toilet, the squads will themselves use it.”
Honourable Chief Minister of Odisha, took to twitter to congratulate Deogarh on becoming the first district from Odisha to enter into the list.
The government is also targeting to declare Balasore, Gajapati, Jagatsinghpur and Boudhopen defecation free by this year-end.
Having all of this said and done, simply building more toilets will not do the job.Social norms and habits need to be changed if open defecation needs to be successfully fought.