OUT IN THE OPEN
Down To Earth|August 01, 2021
Contrary to the government's claim of India being open defecation free, 15 per cent of Indians still go out to relieve themselves, says a WHO-UNICEF report
SHIVANGI AGARWAL

ON OCTOBER 2, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared India open defecation-free (ODF). A long-pursued target of successive governments, the milestone was celebrated with much fanfare on Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary. With India's achievement, the world made great strides in meeting the sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-6) that ensures availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. Before 2014, the country was responsible for 60 percent of the world's open defecation burden with over 550 million people not having access to toilets, as per the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.

However, a report titled Progress on Household Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2000-2020 by the World Health Organization (who) and the United Nations Children's International Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released on July 1, 2021, raises doubts about India's claim. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report assesses the progress the world has made on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene between 2000 and 2020 to measure the progress made towards achieving SDG-6. It acknowledges that India is responsible for the largest drop in open defecation since 2015, in terms of absolute numbers. Open defecation had dropped by 16 per cent points over the 10 years since 2000. The pace of reduction picked up after 2016, with open defecation dropping by 14 per cent points in only five years, notes the report.

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