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With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on making the country open defecation free (ODF) by 2019, the rural development ministry has decided to change the way the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) scheme is implemented.
From earlier emphasis on building toilets it wants states to go for behavioural changes in rural population through coordinated effort of different departments and ministries.
“One of the biggest challenges in making the country ODF is triggering behavioural change in the population to accept the need for building and using toilets. A large number of people amongst the Indian population are still not convinced of the need to build toilets in their home. In this connection coordinated effort by all the departments of the state governments that have interface with the rural population is required,” the ministry wrote to all the states on Wednesday.
Government’s directive comes on the backdrop of a number of reports that point to the failure of the NBA on which the government has spent more than Rs 19,000 crore since it was launched in 1999.
According to the latest report of government backed independent evaluators who surveyed 26 states, 287 districts and 2,868 villages, 54% of rural households do not have access to toilets. Census 2011 puts the figure at 67% and NSSO at 60%.
“Department of education for instance can sensitise the teachers and the students to spread the message of sanitation. Similarly the department of health could spread the message through health workers. The department of panchayati raj and department of women and child development could sensitise the panchayati raj functionaries and anganwadi workers respectively,” the ministry said in its letter.
The ministry also outlined four key messages that need to be spread. They are building and use of toilets; safe disposal of child faeces; hand washing with soap after defecation; and safe storage and handling of drinking water.