Open defecation-Free India

Mahatma Gandhi once said, – “Sanitation is more important than Independence”. India gained freedom under the leadership of this great man but his dream of a clean India is not fulfilled yet. On the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s declaration of its rural areas is now open and defecation-free and is the best tribute to our Nation’s Father.

Commencement of the Open Defecation-Free campaign started with the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on October 2, 2014. Thenceforward, this Abhiyan has a high priority with the avowed goal of bridging decades of neglect through a policy focused on toilet construction. It provides sanitation facilities to every family, including toilets, solid and liquid waste disposal systems, village cleanliness, and a safe and adequate drinking water supply.

In 2014, India had 450 million people defecating in the open, which according to WHO accounted for 59% of the total Indian population. Today, India has reached a milestone. According to government data, 110 million toilets were built under this program then counts as an achievement in itself. Over 10cr toilets have been built in rural areas till now over 5.9 lakh villages have declared themselves as Open Defecation-Free.

But there is another aspect as well. Merely building new toilets is not going to change the game. India needs to move beyond that and take steps towards efficient faecal sludge management for a safer environment which doesn’t pose any threat to the heath of its people. This is a long road and the government can hope to achieve sustainable outcomes only if it prioritizes citizen rights and community participation.

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