Sanitation entails ensuring a hygienic environment to eliminate diseases and health issues. But we find the Swachh Bharat Mission predominantly focused only on the construction of toilets. As a result, the complex problem of sanitation is reduced to the provision of household toilets, leading to the neglect of many crucial components such as the containment and treatment of human faeces, and the management of waste and waste water.
The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), India’s sanitation programme states that it aims to reduce health and sanitation vulnerabilities among the poor through access to toilets. However, we find that far from minimising vulnerabilities, the scheme seems to exploit their vulnerabilities to gain publicity and political support.
There is much to learn from the working of previously constructed community managed toilets. When it comes to public sanitation, it is the provision of facilities for the poorest that is often neglected. According to a 2011 census, only 46.9% of India’s homes have a toilet. Open defecation is prominent among those who do not have access to private sanitation facilities and posses many health and safety risks. These could be the urban poor who live in slums and informal settlements and also commuters.