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Five years ago, when Indian Prime Minister launched the ambitious Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign, he had announced October 2, 2019, as the day country will be free of open defecation free (ODF)
 He said on 2.10.2019 in Ahmadabad that In 60 months, 600 million people have been given access to toilets, more than 110 million toilets have been built.
The whole world is amazed to hear this. In the month of September 2019, two Dalit (former untouchables) children - Roshni Valmiki, 12, and her 10-year-old nephew, Avinash were beaten to death in a village in central India's Madhya Pradesh state for defecating in the open. Avinash's father Manoj Valmiki told Al Jazeera they lived in a small hut without a toilet.
Ironically, their village was declared ODF by the government in April last year. Open defecation refers to the practice whereby people defecate in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water or other open spaces rather than using a toilet.
More than 300 million Indians are still defecating in the open in 2018, according to the World Bank. Experts said that while the construction of toilets has increased, lack of water, poor maintenance stood in the way of ending the practice.
The Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE) surveyed 3,235 households in four north Indian states in 2014 and 2018. Their research, released in January 2019 this year, found that open defecation had reduced by 26 percent since Clean India was launched and access to household toilets increased from 37 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2018.
However, the study found that 23 percent of people who owned a toilet continued to defecate in the open, including in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states, which have been declared ODF.
This government is working only to create headlines. The government should provide the facility to every household and we support the government in that. But to claim that everybody has got a toilet and nobody is going in the open is completely a bogus statement.
Now the question remains to be answered whether rural India is really open defecation-free? The Swachh Bharat Mission website claims with some caveats that the country has achieved 100% coverage of latrine ownership.
If this was the definition of being open defecation-free, then, again with some caveats, India can be declared so.
 Ten months ago, a survey was conducted by a team and they revisited the families who were interviewed in a 2014 survey in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and MP and it found that between 2014 and the end of 2018, latrine ownership in the region had increased by 34 percentage points.
Yet, even in States that had already been declared open defecation-free, the actual coverage was far below 100%. Although the percentage of people defecating in the open declined by 26 percentage points, close to half still reported to be relieving themselves in the open.
And sadly, the programme barely managed to bring any change in the behavior of latrine owners. Like in 2014, about a quarter of people who own a functional latrine continued to defecate in the open. Overall, the study found that 44% of people in these four States defecated in the open.
These facts are unlikely to have radically changed in only 10 months. We have many questions but the most important remains to be answered that why don’t we have a sanitation policy that will address the remaining who openly defecate?
For those who care about India’s abandoned toilets and stunted health outcomes, this is an important question. In the past five years, the Indian government has built 100 million toilets. This implies that it constructed 38 toilets every minute that had passed since the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched. With a country as large as India, this is a big achievement. But another important question to ask here is: how was this achieved?
In this case we find that building toilets is only the first and perhaps the easiest but step towards attaining a ‘clean India’ status. It cannot be seen as the ultimate yardstick of success. What happens to the immense amounts of solid and liquid waste that these millions of new toilets would generate? If human excreta are not handled carefully safely disposed of or reused it will add to our health burden and negate all the work done to build the toilets.
Let us see how monumental the problem would be: 1, 00,000 tonne of excreta every day produced by 720 million people using 144 million household toilets just to give a sense of scale, more than 5,200 trucks would be needed every day to transport this amount of excreta!
CSE has based this estimate on the standard calculation that on an average, an individual produces 128 gram of excreta every day. This could turn out to be a far bigger problem than that of open defecation. If not managed properly, the mind-boggling amounts of waste that these toilets will spew forth close to people’s homes can severely contaminate the land and water sources.
What compounds the problem is the manner in which the entire process of making villages ODF has been carried out. To declare India’s 0.6 million villages ODF, the Census 2011 involved 2.7 million officials, ostensibly working in collaboration with 3.6 million village residents. However, the rush to achieve targets has led to false claims. The analysis quotes the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Gujarat and Uttarakhand, which have exposed cases of fudging of data. Poorly designed and built, many of these toilets have added to the burden.
For instance, in those built in flood-prone areas, the stored faeces pose a major pollution and health hazard during monsoons. The high density of pit latrines and poorly made and maintained septic tanks can render the shallow aquifer water unfit for drinking because of nitrate and bacterial contamination.

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