New Book - A Memoir of Two Toilet Inspectors (India)

721 views

  • nityajacob
  • nityajacob's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Water Policy Analyst and Author; Moderator of the SuSanA India Chapter; WASH Lead at Swasti
  • Posts: 259
  • Karma: 6
  • Likes received: 125

New Book - A Memoir of Two Toilet Inspectors (India)

New Book - A Memoir of Two Toilet Inspectors
by Nitya Jacob, Sunetra Lala

Get it on Amazon from here - www.amazon.in/Memoir-Two-Toilet-Inspecto...s%2Caps%2C290&sr=8-1

India has witnessed the world's largest behaviour change programme, as the mandarins of the country's sanitation programme called it. From 2014 to 2019, more than 100 million toilets were made. The government paid  for these and a myriad of people toiled for the toilets. There are  stories of sacrifice and valour as in any military mission. Only, making toilets is not a conquest. It is a change in the way of life for hundreds of millions living a perilous rural existence. Toilets competed with their priorities for food, water and jobs. In the building frenzy, a dark comedy emerged.

The frenzy unleashed an army of experts, an avalanche of money and a winner-takes-it-all method. In what  followed, history repeated itself. India has run none-too-successful programmes to provide toilets for people since the 1950s. In 1999, the paradigm changed. From being a government benefactor-led programme, it became demand-led. People were to be convinced to make toilets by skilled motivators. They would apply to the government, get a subsidy and put in their own money to make one. Progress crawled, as the authors have documented, from 1999 to 2014.

The book is a qualitative travelogue of the sanitation journey of these states. It documents the similarities and disparities in approaches, actors, results, problems, solutions, institutions, agents of persuasion and change. It explores India’s tryst with toilets - its beauty spots and warts.


Full book description copied from Amazon (added by moderator):

India has witnessed the world's largest behaviour change programme, as the mandarins of the country's sanitation programme called it. From 2014 to 2019, more than 100 million toilets were made. The government paid for these and a myriad of people toiled for the toilets. There are stories of sacrifice and valour as in any military mission. Only, making toilets is not a conquest. It is a change in the way of life for hundreds of millions living a perilous rural existence. Toilets competed with their priorities for food, water and jobs. In the building frenzy, a dark comedy emerged.

The frenzy unleashed an army of experts, an avalanche of money and a winner-takes-it-all method. In what followed, history repeated itself. India has run none-too-successful programmes to provide toilets for people since the 1950s. In 1999, the paradigm changed. From being a government benefactor-led programme, it became demand-led. People were to be convinced to make toilets by skilled motivators. They would apply to the government, get a subsidy and put in their own money to make one. Progress crawled, as the authors have documented, from 1999 to 2014.

The toilet-tango continued through successive avatars - the Total Sanitation Campaign became the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in 2012. And the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014. Recording changes in the decade from 2007 to 2017, through interviews and observations across seven states and about 20 districts, the authors aver the more things changed, the more they remained the same. The government made people build toilets and paid out subsidies in 2007. They continued doing so in 2017, but insisted these were termed incentives, not subsidies. The pay out in 2017 was 10 times that in 2007. A powerful motivator, the writers found.

While they were out making toilets on the frontlines with the trained motivators (swachhagrahis), they forgot to tell people how to use them. And why they should do so. Whilst villages, districts, states and eventually the whole country was declared ODF, meaning every listed house had a toilet on paper, in reality the authors saw the universal programme had in places passed over the poor and excluded. It was so earlier; it was repeated in 2017.

There was an absurd wall painting in a village of a backward state. It showed a gangster making off with a woman who had gone to the fields to defecate. In 2007 as also a decade later, women bore the brunt. The lack of toilets forced them to go out to answer nature's call. The motivators insisted toilets were the gateway to safety and dignity. It became a woman's problem, not a societal one. The book is a qualitative travelogue of the sanitation journey of these states. It documents the similarities and disparities in approaches, actors, results, problems, solutions, institutions, agents of persuasion and change. It explores India’s tryst with toilets - its beauty spots and warts.

The following user(s) like this post: AjitSeshadri
You need to login to reply
  • Elisabeth
  • Elisabeth's Avatar
  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
  • Posts: 3329
  • Karma: 54
  • Likes received: 905

Re: New Book - A Memoir of Two Toilet Inspectors (India)

Hi Nitya,
I had a look at your book through the preview function of Amazon (click on "look inside"). I am intrigued and I like it because it seems to be full of opinions and strong statements about what worked and what didn't.

Are you able to share a bit more content here for those who don't want to or cannot buy the book? Also, who are the two toilet inspectors, is that you and your co-author? What does a toilet inspector do in India?

Also, your book could be used nicely as a source for some new content for the Wikipedia article on SBM . Have you thought about that? If done correctly, it can be a win-win: you improve the Wikipedia article and you get some free advertising for your book as it would become one of the references in the list. Also the Wikipedia article on open defecation could do with improvements. (make sure you do it correctly though, following the Wikipedia editing guidelines, otherwise it might be seen as conflict of interest)

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(with financial support by GIZ from July to November 2021)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Ulm, Germany
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
You need to login to reply
  • nityajacob
  • nityajacob's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Water Policy Analyst and Author; Moderator of the SuSanA India Chapter; WASH Lead at Swasti
  • Posts: 259
  • Karma: 6
  • Likes received: 125

Re: New Book - A Memoir of Two Toilet Inspectors (India)

Hi Elisabeth,

Thank you for the suggestions about Wikipedia. I will try to figure it out and ask for help if I'm stuck.

Regarding your questions:

Sunetra Lala and I are co-authors. We have dubbed ourselves toilet inspectors (not sanitary inspectors, that's a technical job). This came from many years of traveling in rural India looking at sanitation - toilet construction, supply chains, behaviour change (and the lack of it) - and talking to people working on sanitation. In that sense, we looked at sanitation programmes, mostly toilets as those were the tip of the spear, as it were. And we wanted to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as the book brings out.

Like the blurb says, the book covers about 10 years worth of such travels, from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. We visited many states but looked at the toilet issues in detail in about 10. Of those, we picked the six where we had good temporal and geographic information. We tried very hard to organize the narrative for each state according to the level from village to the state government. We have uplinked where suitable to Federal government policies.

The book is based on first-hand experiences and interviews with people from village up to the Federal government. Some names have been left out, but the designations are real! We have attempted at interpreting the interviews in the chapter, as well as in the concluding chapter. The first chapter sets the tone for the book, the last one pulls common threads together to make sense of three sanitation programmes in the decade under consideration.

In West Bengal, we found the crucible of sanitation programmes, what would eventually become national in nature. We met the 'sanitation footsoldiers' and were amazed at the simple, even low-brow, nature of the programme. Before it became fashionable the toast of corporate boardrooms, we saw simple hole in the wall pour-flush toilets ringed with torn saris for privacy. What perturbed us was their proximity to ponds and handpumps.

In Bihar, we saw how the state government had cottoned onto the booming network of self-help groups. Set up to provide income and livelihoods to women, these became natural allies in community outreach programmes. They tried, and failed, to use the groups to project manage sanitation. Very early on in the Swachh Bharat Mission, they were co-opted to change behaviour rather than run the mission.

In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India with about 210 million people, we saw how toilets reinforced patriarchy. It quickly became a woman's burden. The onus was on women. Champions emerged, women who sold their goats to make a toilet. Or took a loan against jewellery. But those only strengthened the notions that toilets were for the fairer sex. Men could continue excreting in fields.

In Tamil Nadu, we again saw how SHGs had been at the vanguard of sanitation over the decade. The state had a long history of fostering these groups, again to help women get some money of their own and shake off economic dependence on men. The women of SHGs were more vocal and better organized than men and could be entrusted with certain aspects of the sanitation campaign. They worked with local governments more harmoniously than in Bihar, where the two were sometimes at odds about sanitation.

In Karnataka, the state built its sanitation campaign on the template of a success story from one district. The model was developed by a dynamic young officer who went up against the political establishment and patriarchy. She used resources at her disposal smartly and got not a little help from her superior officers in the state government.

In Rajasthan, we saw how the campaign became a collector-led one. Collectors are administrative officers tasked with the overall development of a district. They wield immense power and control average annual budgets of around INR 10 billion a district for various development programmes. Some young smart collectors experimented and evolved their own method of making their districts ODF and used their authority to bring officials and local governments into line.

Like we said in the introduction, the book is not an evaluation. It is a description of sanitation programmes, warts and all.

We hope you will find this a useful read from a different perspective.

Regards,
Nitya
The following user(s) like this post: paresh, AjitSeshadri
You need to login to reply
Share this thread:
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 0.193 seconds