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Rural sanitation in India is a major problem, with an estimated 525 million people defecating in the open in rural areas in 2013 (JMP 2015). To tackle rural sanitation, the Indian Government has mounted four campaigns in succession: the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) launched in 1986 followed by the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999, the Nirmal Bharat Abhyan (NBA) in 2012 and now the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G) (clean India mission), initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2nd 2014. The SBM-G has the target of achieving an open defecation free India in five years, by October 2nd 2019, the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. The SBM-G is coordinated by the Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, with two sub-missions, rural and urban.

Since 1986, policies have evolved with a steadily increasing allocation of funds for individual households, initially referred to as subsidy, and later as incentive, now standing at Rs12,000 for a household. In earlier programmes these were directed towards poorer households. More recently they have been intended to support a strong emphasis on collective behaviour change. Sanitation is a State subject, and the guidelines give flexibility for States to decide how to proceed and the balance, sequencing and allocations between communities and households. The SBM-G guidelines emphasise the need to adopt  community led and community saturation approaches with a strong focus on collective behaviour change. Emphasis is also placed on awareness generation, triggering behaviour change and demand generation for entire communities. Toilets in schools and other public places, and solid and liquid waste management are also a focus.

These conditions of subsidy or incentive, and the sheer scale and complexity of rural India, have presented CLTS with challenges limiting the application of traditional CLTS and leading to a variety of adaptations. CLTS was first introduced in Ahmednagar and Nanded districts, Maharashtra, in 2002. During the Total Sanitation Campaign CLTS was reportedly being used in 16 out of 35 Indian states but claims tended to exceed realities and impact seems to have been limited. Apart from Sikkim, which has declared itself open defecation free, Himachal Pradesh was the most successful as the only state to adopt a no-subsidy model with a community owned agenda as part of a sustained campaign. CLTS and moves towards ending open defecation have been most promising in hill states and in tribal and other small relatively cohesive communities. Elements of CLTS like triggering and verification have been increasingly adopted, and national guidelines for open defecation free (ODF) verification issued.

CLTS has also been used in three urban areas: Kalyani near Kolkata in west Bengal (2005-07); Raigad near Mumbai in Maharashtra (2008); and Nanded in North-Western Maharashtra (2011). The process in Kalyani was facilitated by Kamal Kar, the originator of CLTS, CLTS in Raigad was used to trigger urban communities into action with a focus on safe disposal of solid waste and CLTS in Nanded was led by Nipun Vinayak in 2012 when he was Municipal Commissioner.

Rapid Action Learning

The Guidelines also recommend Rapid Action Learning Units (RALUs) at National, State and District levels. These are to be small flexible teams who keep in close touch and up to date with realities on the ground.  They are to learn what works and what does not, identify bottlenecks, capture, promote and initiate innovations and conduct quick ad hoc research and action research. The intentions is that they will find quick and effective ways forward and share and spread the findings immediately.  RALU-type activities have included a sharing workshop at Bhopal in August 2015

Since 2014, five Rapid Action Learning (RAL) workshops have been co-convened by the Government of India, WSSCC and IDS, one at the national level, two at Divisional level, and two of Blocks at District level. These have brought together those working on SBM-G to share and learn from each other and plan for next steps. They have evolved over time – emphasis is placed on peer-to-peer horizontal sharing and learning of innovations, experiences and good practices, with teams spending time reflecting and considering changes they can immediately make to their SBM-G plans and actions using what has been learnt. Practical, action and lesson-focussed outputs are rapidly produced and disseminated in the two days immediately following the event to ensure momentum generated in the workshops is maintained and spreads beyond the original participants. Reports are short (approx. 4 pages), to avoid the delay in production of a long report that no one will read.

The aims of these workshops are:

  1. to provide the state, districts, blocks and villages with ideas and means to accelerate progress towards sustainable and equitable ODF
  2. to learn from successful experiences and to provide opportunities for sharing insights, innovations and successful practices, including methods, processes and approaches developed by peers in other districts
  3. to make these accessible for adoption and/or adaptation by other districts
  4. for district teams to review practical lessons learnt and to integrate that learning into district specific actions 

Collaboratively produced resources supporting the quality, sustainability and timely implementation of the SBM-G campaign have recently been produced/updated. These resources are vital for anyone planning or leading a campaign, or organising and facilitating a Rapid Action Learning (RAL) workshop.

These include:

(July 2018)