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Rajasthan tells an unexpected story of stopping open defecation under Swachh Bharat Mission

Mathews K. Mullackal's picture
Rajasthan has become an unlikely frontrunner in sanitation. Until recently, it was among Indian states with the lowest rates of toilet coverage. With a difficult terrain, scarce water, and low levels of literacy, the slow pace of progress was not surprising.

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?