Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is considered as a basic human right. Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (Rural), launched by the Government of India in 2014, is hailed as an attempt towards that direction. On 2nd October 2019, India was declared free from open defecation, with rural households having full toilet coverage. However, despite Government claims, the existing literature indicates the presence of slippage: where households practice open defecation despite having access to toilets. Equating progress in sanitation interventions with mere toilet provision presents a partial assessment of sanitation. To address the gap, the ‘Sanitation Well-being’ framework, based on Amartya Sen's concept of justice, has been proposed. It identifies slippage as an outcome of various underlying factors across the sanitation life-cycle. The framework provides a lens to analyse existing frameworks and secondary data sets and finds that they do not capture the dynamism inherent in the sector. The efficacy of the framework has been tested in the rural district of Shravasti, Uttar Pradesh, India, through the rapid rural appraisal method. Through our investigation, we found that slippage exists in the field, and that the framework is a feasible instrument to assess sanitation as a comprehensive phenomenon.


  • Progress in sanitation is equated with toilet coverage giving a partial judgement.

  • In rural India open defecation is practiced despite possessing toilets.

  • Proposed framework captures retrospective nature of sanitation unlike existing frameworks and datasets.

  • It judges well-being through expansion in people's capabilities.

  • Existence of slippage verified and framework identifies potential areas for slippage.

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