Understanding the negotiations around access to sanitation in marginalised communities of Mumbai.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The government of India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission with the aim of making the country Open Defecation (OD) free by 2019. This was to be accomplished through universal access to toilets including a subsidy for construction of individual toilets. Since its launch, local governments have been on an overdrive to declare their cities OD free with or without the provisioning of toilets. In a limited sense, OD free is being understood merely as defecating in a closed space. M/E ward, one of the administrative wards of Mumbai, which had 4 OD sites on 31st Dec 2016, was declared OD free overnight on the 1st of Jan 2017. The magic wand used to do this was a deployment of police (marshals) who fined people defecating in the open. People have attempted to use the Government’s Resolution towards provisioning of toilets to get individual toilets constructed.
However, this has ended up in a seemingly futile wait of two years. Defecation is a basic human need and in the absence of government action to ensure access, to preserve their dignity, people have come up with different strategies. These people have used innovative ways to create toilets in their dwellings with the faecal matter being either treated with an organic substance in the pit, released in septic tanks or directly into open drains. The paper draws on the research conducted by ‘Transforming M-ward project’ of Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the strategies used by the people to negotiate access to sanitation. It will highlight the actions, agencies, and relationships of residents who navigate their
needs in the absence of government provisioning of this important infrastructure. This paper will also delve into understanding the definitions of OD and the infrastructure required to address it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventHealthy Cities 2019: Urbanisation, Infrastructures and Everyday Life - University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 May 20193 May 2019


ConferenceHealthy Cities 2019: Urbanisation, Infrastructures and Everyday Life
Abbreviated titleHC2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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