Water Wiki » The Wiki Blog » An untold story of policy failure: the Total Sanitation Campaign in India

Dec 10 2013

This article, from our Journal Authors Guest Post series, is by Hueso, Andrés and Bell, Brian, authors of An untold story of policy failure: the Total Sanitation Campaign in India Water Policy Vol 15 No 6 pp 1001–1017 © IWA Publishing 2013 doi:10.2166/wp.2013.032.

The Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was the national rural sanitation campaign of India between 1999 and 2012. It was a community-led, people-centred, demand-driven and incentive-based programme ideal to address India’s rural sanitation crisis, or so it seemed… However, policy failed to translate into practice and the TSC implementation was rather government-led, infrastructure-centred, supply driven and subsidy-based. Thousands of latrines were planted throughout the country without any involvement or appropriation by the ‘beneficiaries’, severely affecting sustainability. While Government of India was claiming that rural coverage had reached 68% in 2011 – up from 22% in 2001– Census data showed that real coverage was only 31%. This implies that only one in five latrines reportedly constructed since 2001 were in place in 2011. The rest either had  become unusable due to bad construction quality and lack of maintenance, or were not fully built in the first place. The decadal coverage increase was less than 10 percentage points; less progress than in the previous decade. As a whole, during the Total Sanitation Campaign population growth outpaced latrine coverage and the total number of rural households without latrines went up by 8.3 million: this means that those defecating in the open were increasing by approximately 10.000 people every day.

The enormity of the figures, along with the consequences of lack of sanitation on people’s health, children nutrition and women’s dignity, make the case for a through analysis of the campaign, teasing out what did not work and why.

Unfortunately, this analysis is yet to happen in India. Despite the fact that India’s Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation recognised that the ‘Total Sanitation Campaign has been a failure’, no time was taken to investigate why it had failed. Instead, a new campaign was set up, the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, which ignores the key hurdles that hampered the implementation of the TSC. As a consequence, the campaign is already stumbling again into these hurdles.

Drawing on evidence from two coordinated studies we conducted in 2011 in four Indian states, we tried to explore the dichotomy of TSC policy and practice and its causes, in the hope of shedding some light on possible ways forward for the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. We identified five main reasons behind the theory–practice gap in the TSC: low political priority; flawed monitoring; distorting accountability and career incentives; technocratic and paternalistic inertia; and corruption. We believe that unless these problems are tackled, significant success in sanitation in the country will remain elusive.


Created by Chloe Parker on 2013/12/10 16:05