A vigorous campaign sensitising school students to trigger behavioural changes in people on the need to use toilets is soon going to be launched by the Centre to end the menace of open defecation in the country.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation took the decision days after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's maiden budget set a goal of ending defecating in the open by 2019.
Observing that a large number of people in India are still unconvinced about the need to build toilets in their homes, the Ministry has asked the states to make coordinated efforts to end the menace of open defecation.
"One of the biggest challenges in making the country Open Defecation Free is triggering behavioural changes in the population to accept the need for building and using toilets," the government said.
The Centre said all state government departments are required to have "interface with rural population" on the issue.
"Department of Education, for instance, can sensitise the teachers and students to spread the message of sanitation. The messages could also be included in the school curricula as well as training curricula for the teachers.
"Students could be encouraged to carry these messages back to their homes," a Ministry official said.
Similarly, the Departments of Panchayati Raj and Women and Child Development can sensitise the panchayat functionaries and the anganwadi workers respectively for spreading the messages on sanitation, the official said.
The Ministry said the four key messages on sanitation that need to be spread include construction and use of toilets, safe disposal of child faeces, hand washing with soaps after defecation, before food and after handling child faeces and safe storage and handling of drinking water.
In a communication sent to the state governments, the Ministry said, "The functionaries at the grass-root level of all the departments may be urged to make extra efforts to sensitise the rural population on sanitation."
The government has launched "Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan" to address the big sanitation challenges the country faces particularly in the rural areas.
According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 2012, in India, only about 40.6 per cent of the rural households have access to toilets.