ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sanitation and User Charges in Indian Slums

Who Pays and How Does It Matter?

Despite the efforts of successive governments, sanitation coverage remains low in India. While several studies have explored the impact of user financing on the improvement of sanitation facilities, this article looks at the conditions of housing, infrastructure and the surroundings of slums, under which different sanitation arrangements are made. The sanitation arrangements considered are of various types of ownership and cost-sharing arrangements. The findings provide useful insights that challenge one of the basic motivations for user financing: increased accountability in service delivery.

The coverage of sanitation in India is low in spite of efforts made by successive governments. According to the 2011 Census of India, around 69% rural and 17% urban households do not have a toilet (Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner 2011). Political manipulations, connections and clientelism further aggravated the need for services for minorities and weaker sections (Contractor 2012). Government policies have been emphasising on private participation and user financing in sanitation for additional resource mobilisation and greater accountability in service delivery.1 The National Urban Sanitation Policy, 2008 focused on publicprivate partnership, cost sharing and community planning for improved provision, maintenance and management of sanitation facilities (Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs 2008).

Worldwide, the privatisation of public services received momentum in the late 1970s for more efficient service delivery and to restrain the growth of the public sector (Pack 1987; Poole and Fixler 1987). However, scholars did not find any concrete and significant evidence of lower costs in private production.2 Nevertheless, co-financing and cost recovery was advocated by scholars for urban public services, including sanitation in developing nations (Rondinelli 1990; Mehta and Pathak 1998). This article investigates the conditions associated with user-financing arrangements for sanitation in Indian slums. Where does the government prefer to provide services through user charges? Does it improve sanitation conditions in slums?

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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