Being notorious for its persistent culture of open defecation, 60% of India’s population has no toilet in their homes – a number that rises to about 72% in rural areas. Half of India’s 1.2 billion people still defecate in the open, irrespective of socioeconomic class. Municipalities have been working to fight off this bad habit adopted by the public majority for years. India’s capital is working on campaigning in 675 notified Delhi slums to obliterate the culture and put an end to the stubborn habit. The municipality is providing hundreds of slums with more than 8,000 public toilet complexes so they can declare the clusters open-defecation-free by the end of this financial year.

delhi slums

Open Defecation along Mumbai local train tracks. CC via Sharada Prasad.

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) is aiming to complete construction of the toilet complexes in Delhi slums by December of this year. According to DUSIB’s plans, this would actually mean that the complexes would be complete earlier than scheduled, since Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced last month that all slums would be open-defecation-free by March 2018. Starting February 14, 2015, until June 30 of this year, a total of 10,583 public toilets were renovated and installed in Delhi slums. Now, as many as 8,400 toilets are either under construction or being renovated.

Also in Mumbai, TV network Viacom18 kicked off the second phase of ‘Chakachak Mumbai’ and installed a set of public toilets last month in the western suburb of Bandra. In the first phase of ‘Chakachak Mumbai,’ Viacom18 renovated more than 200 toilets across four slums in Andheri East.

But it hasn’t only stopped at installing more public toilets – Mumbai has given the campaign an artistic edge as well. To gradually dissolve the headstrong behavioral culture, ‘Chakachak Mumbai,’ in cooperation with the municipality, is transforming the outside of mobile public toilets into art canvases to display the city’s cultural diversity. The toilet blocks have drawings that illustrate Mumbai’s lifeline of local trains, Hindi cinema, the fishermen “Koli” community, and other similar themes, aiming to ignite a flame of pride in the communities, encourage more people to use the public toilets and bring an end to the phenomena of defecating or urinating in the open.