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Major challenges in doing CLTS in India

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Learning from doing CLTS in Guna Block of Guna District in Madhya Pradesh, India

Major Challenges in doing CLTS in India

  • Capacity
  • Subsidy

Issue of capacity

  • Lack of trained people who are trained and willing to work on CLTS.
  • There are not many organizations that believe and are skilled to create trained people who could train others.
  • In the government set up/PRIs, most functionaries including those at the decision-making level have never been exposed to CLTS. For an enabling environment, they need to be oriented on this.
  • Experience had been that very few people become lead trainers out of the facilitators trained.
  • Skill of facilitators could be honed up through practice by doing triggering and follow-up in villages; no correspondence course can make a skilled CLTS facilitator
  • Many facilitators leave when they find it is a hard work as one has to make efforts in meeting communities and has to adjust visits according to their timing. Many facilitators get frustrated and leave when they find that their facilitation has failed to yield results.
  • However, it has been noticed that some natural leaders (NLs) from villages come forward to help other villages. Utilizing their services is yielding results. These NLs are effective as they have shown results in their own villages, they not only motivate others but also provide help in construction that they learnt during construction of their own toilets.

Issue of Subsidy

Another big challenge in doing CLTS in India has been subsidy for individual toilets under TSC. The implications are:

  • Subsidy brings focus on somehow ensuring individual toilet construction and creation of ODF environment through sustained usage remains no priority. Therefore, many toilets are seen as store rooms filled with cow dung flakes or any other use other than for defecation.
  • The budget for subsidy is limited, many people in many villages keep waiting for their turn of getting subsidy and spirit of local initiative/action is lost
  • When APL families come to know that subsidy is only for BPL, they become disinterested in the program.
  • In many cases BPL list is faulty; richer are included and poorer are excluded. Therefore, distribution of subsidy further divides them; excluded people lose interest in the program as also trust on the government machinery.
  • Subsidy has been termed as ‘incentive’ in the TSC guidelines and is supposed to be provided when the toilet is in regular use and OD is stopped, it has rarely been followed. In actual practice in most cases, money is released before construction and that too to a contractor/mediator with no consultation with the people.
  • In cases, people are also ‘educated’ by the mediator to connive. In most cases, the subsidized toilets (in cases, not properly constructed and incomplete/faulty design etc.) are thrust upon people who never wanted a toilet as they were never prepared/triggered for that. This results in non-use of toilets and waste of money.
  • Many government/PRI functionaries do not want to adopt CLTS approach, as CLTS advocates no upfront subsidy while they want to distribute subsidy; many local contractors/PRI members/staff think that the opportunity of doing construction and making money would be lost, if CLTS is implemented. They try to spread rumours and influence community decision adversely.
  • Denying subsidy in one block (and distributing it in other blocks of the district or in some villages of the same block) gives rise to rumours that facilitators and government functionaries are secretly swallowing subsidy wherever they were not giving it. Some think that if they do not construct toilets, the government would be compelled to provide money at some point in the future.
  • The challenge has increased with substantial increase in subsidy under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (new Awtar of TSC) announced by GoI. But there is one plus point that there is no APL/BPL divide; it would be available to everyone.

Marrying CLTS with subsidy of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan: Is it an option?

Let us accept the ground reality that subsidy will remain in Nirmal Bharat Program as many efforts for many years have failed to abolish subsidy. Therefore, it would be difficult and undesirable to deny it for doing CLTS.
Let us therefore evolve mechanism of marrying CLTS and Subsidy of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. Would it be a good idea? This is certainly not the best option. But it would be the middle path for creating ODF environment in villages. The path is not risk-free but one can hope that outcomes would be relatively better than it was generally seen under TSC.

One of the possible ways could be that a promise is made once the community expresses resolve to end OD that when they make their village ODF, they would be given the money available under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in a public function which they would have to use in upgrading/strengthening their toilets and possibly create additional facilities such as bath rooms.
Strictly, no money is released before the village becomes ODF and the status is verified through a transparent process developed for the purpose.

The only compromise is in terms of a promise of subsidy (which runs the risk of becoming an allurement for constructing toilets) after the resolve has been made by community to end OD. The distribution of subsidy is done post achievement of ODF status and in a transparent manner in a function organized in the village to recognize community efforts. Senior officers must participate in this. After 15 days or so (date would be fixed in the function itself), another visit would be held by a team of senior officers to see the upgraded toilets and encourage people for their good efforts.

The above could be one way of doing CLTS in a high subsidy regime in India. Does it make sense? Or there any other better ways to address the issue of hardware subsidy which government of India is unwilling to do away with?

J. P. Shukla is Chief of Policy and Programmes at Knowledge Links, India

Date: 20 April 2012