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Open Defecation Free? People From a Village in Madhya Pradesh, Still Forced to Go in the Open

In Madhya Pradesh’s Dhehadi Amdhana village, the Swachh Bharat Mission has failed to provide household toilets despite the state’s Open Defecation Free status.

“Where do you go to defecate?”

“I go in the open, where else would I go?”

These are the words of Jamatibai, an elderly woman in Dhehadi Amdhana village of Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district. While the residents of this village were promised toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the government never finished building their latrines. Because of this, they are forced to go outdoors in exposed and unsanitary conditions. However, Madhya Pradesh had been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) prior to the state’s 2018 Vidhan Sabha elections. How can this be?

Launched in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to create a “Clean India” by the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October, 2019. The rural component of the program - Swachh Bharat (Gramin) - is administered by the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation with the express mission of eradicating open defecation in India. The main way the government hopes to accomplish this is by providing toilets to rural households, or individual household latrines (IHHLs). As of May 2019, the government claims that at least 30 states and Union Territories have 100% of households with working toilets, while only Goa, Odisha, and Telangana have less than this.

Moreover, officials do not often check the status of toilets allegedly built under the program, such as in Dehahadhi Amdhana. After Madhya Pradesh was declared “Open Defecation Free,” an independent survey by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, found that 10% of households in the state still lacked access to a household latrine. In Bihar, the researchers found an even greater discrepancy of 42 percentage points between their data and official figures.

The toilet facilities in Dehadi Amdhana are still incomplete, and no representative from the Swachh Bharat scheme has come to check on the status of the project. The villagers are left with non-operational latrines that are not even covered properly. “We have to go the jungle only,” says Kamal, another resident.

Video by Community Correspondent, Mohanlal.

Article by Connor Staggs, a William J. Clinton Fellow of the American India Foundation. 


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