The Union Government, which is running a high voltage campaign to free the country from open defecation, has now given a uniform definition to Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Observing that lack of a uniform definition to ODF leads to many problems, the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, headed by Chaudhary Birender Singh, has issued a circular to states, defining the subject based on which the ODF status of a gram panchayat or a village will be decided.

According to the Ministry, "ODF is the termination of faecal-oral transmission, defined by a) no visible faeces found in the environment/village; and b) every household as well as public/community institutions using safe technology option for disposal of faeces." 

The Ministry has also explained what is safe technology option.

"Safe technology option means no contamination of surface soil, ground water or surface water; excreta inaccessible to flies or animals; no handling of fresh excreta; and freedom from odour and unsightly condition," it said.

In its circular, the government said the definition should be brought to the notice of "all concerned".

Explaining the reasons to give a uniform definition to ODF, the government said lack of a uniform definition will lead to each state (and even sub-state levels) having their own understanding of ODF, thereby leading to differential focus in reaching the common goal of ODF for country as a whole.

"There is a consequential lack of clarity on how many villages/Gram Panchayats have become ODF; out of them how many have slipped back and how many are still sustained," the Ministry said, noting that the most important obective of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) is achievement and sustainability of ODF status.

According to a UNICEF survey in 2011, 58 per cent of the world’s population practicing open defecation live in India.