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The Wash Services and India

Policy priorities change or evolve with the need of times. Now as the world transitions from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most important components that are taking policy centre stage are water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) especially in developing and emerging countries.  The importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) can be gauged from domestic schemes on the subject like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

The problematic issue lies in large disparities in having access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services across different segments of the population. In India, 840 million people lack access to improved sanitation and 128 million people lack access to safe water. On a worldwide scale, 2.4 billion people don’t have sanitation services and 663 million lack safe water services.

Assessing the robustness of countries’ WASH policies formulated by the Central and State governments concurrently in the last 15 years mainly on four parameters: the barriers faced by the different segments; the beneficiary segments; the type of outcomes, namely, affordability, accessibility, adequacy, and quality and safety and the strategies that would be used to improve outcomes.

It was found that contrary to expectations, WASH policies formulated by State governments have low robustness as compared to that of national policies. Even when compared with 10 other developing countries from Asia and Africa, the results indicate that policy robustness of WASH policies from India show a substantial scope for improvement. The key component of policy is identification of the beneficiary segment. As the need and barriers for segments of the population differ, there is a need to move to a more beneficiary-centric approach wherein the strategies are customized for the different segments. Equal amount of importance needs to be given when segmenting the beneficiaries on the basis of geographical and social context (GSS) and human life cycle (LCS). The focus needs to be on barriers that come in the way of access to WASH services.

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