Robert Chambers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

From the Indian Express

I propose two major thrusts. The first is to focus on pit-emptying, encouraging entrepreneurs and a market, as in Bangladesh, for pits of all sorts. Where twin pits, with their advantages over septic tanks, are standard, let leadership be dramatic. Politicians, spiritual leaders, officials and many others can be challenged to take out the contents of mature, safe pits and display and handle them in public meetings, showing that they are not polluting. Then people should not fear having to empty their pits.

The second thrust is brutal: In meetings, posters, and all media, affirming that “shit stunts”. Open defecation accounts for over half of undernutrition, measured as stunting. Open defecation and population density together account for two-thirds of stunting. This applies to much of rural India. Stunting means impaired cognitive development, less schooling, poorer performance in school, less earned later in life, vulnerability to disease through damaged immune systems and even obesity. So be brutal in pinning responsibility on those who defecate in the open.

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