Toilet subsidy is not the answer to sanitation problems | Source: India Water Portal, March 2 2016 |
Deepak Sanan, one of the flag bearers of community led total sanitation (CLTS), believes that collective behaviour change works more than individual grants. Himachal Pradesh is a case in point.
In recent years, especially after the launch of major programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, sanitation has become a hotly debated topic in India. Crores of rupees have gone into building toilets but they remain unused, villages that were declared open defecation free (ODF) are unable to sustain that, and sewage treatment continues to be a big challenge. In such a scenario, community led total sanitation (CLTS) offers a different approach. It calls for the suspension of toilet subsidies and instead works towards securing collective behaviour change by instilling disgust or fear in the community.
Himachal Pradesh was one of the early adopters of this concept, reaching about 67 percent rural toilet coverage as per Census 2011 which was more than double the national average of 31 percent. But urban areas have started facing problem of sewage disposal with state capital Shimla registering major jaundice outbreaks frequently.
We talk to Deepak Sanan, Additional Chief Secretary in the Himachal Pradesh government and one of the flag bearers of CLTS on how the state achieved such a feat and what are some challenges.
CLTS has been tried in other states of India as well. Was the social set up in Himachal Pradesh different that it worked so well in the State?
I don’t think there is any difference in the social set up of Himachal that was critical. Himachal Pradesh has strong caste divisions even if it is a predominantly Hindu state. CLTS focuses on collective behaviour change and not on subsidy and it can work anywhere. For instance, Chhattisgarh which is very different when compared to Himachal in terms of education levels, poverty and other social aspects, is moving very fast in the last year using CLTS and abjuring individual household subsides. In fact, it’s setting a good example for states like Bihar and Jharkhand where people say you cannot have toilets without doling out money.
In Himachal, as at other places that have got CLTS right, what worked was the policy shift from subsidies on individual toilets to collective behaviour change. Capacity building in CLTS techniques was arranged at the state level. Local champions like the Deputy Commissioner of Mandi district engaged appropriate NGO support, constituted committees, prepared action plans and involved Panchayati raj institutions. Other DCs followed suit as they also wanted the accolades and awards Mandi district was getting.
CLTS has the potential to work even in urban locations like Kalyani town in West Bengal has shown. The key is to locate the right triggers, involve local governments and facilitate an appropriate action plan that can ensure safe confinement and disposal of human waste irrespective of whether the location is rural or urban, or whether the community is homogenous or diverse.
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