Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous state with about 200 million people, has historically not performed well on sanitation. According to census figures from 2001 and 2011, the proportion of rural UP dwellers with a toilet increased slightly during the first decade of this century. However, the population grew as well, meaning that, overall, 13 million more people were defecating in the open in 2011.
Since 2011, that has changed. As shown in Figure 1, the proportion of people with access to a toilet has more than trebled – from under 20 percent to nearly 68 percent. Of 9,892 Gram Panchayats, the local level of government in India, almost a third – 3,545 – has been declared free of open defecation. That includes all Gram Panchayats in five of the state’s 33 districts, with more set to follow. What has gone right?