New Delhi: It is 4 am, 30-year-old Sushila Devi, like most villagers in India, steps out of her house with a lota (a tiny pot) in her hands. It is still dark and sun is still a few hours away. This is the only time she has, as she makes her way carefully through the fields to avoid disturbing any nocturnal beings. This is a daily routine, waking up at an unearthly hour, venture out in the dark, to find a perfect spot for herself to defecate in the open. This has been the reality for around 450 million Indians. Most of the women with no access to toilets, like Sushila, have grown used to holding their bladders for long periods of time. They are forced to relieve themselves in the fields either early in the morning or late at night when it is dark, just because they don’t have access to the most basic necessity – a toilet.
On October 2, 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi kick-started the mega sanitation drive with an aim to make the country free of open defecation by 2019, India’s sanitation coverage was mere 38 per cent. After three years, because of the government’s efforts along with support of the community, the sanitation coverage has risen to 67.5 per cent. Since the inception of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, more than four crore toilets have been built, around two lakh villages and five states – Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rural Uttarakhad and Haryana – have attained the title of Open Defecation Free (ODF). Government plans to eliminate open defecation by 2019.
Here’s how the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan works:
1. Identification Of Households That Need Toilet: The government first identifies an area that needs its attention when it comes to building toilets. An area is identified in terms of block/city/village/gram panchayat, then the data is taken out by the government which includes facts and figures about the community in terms of number of families located there, how many people have toilets at their homes, how many people don’t have toilets and how many people practice open defecation. Once this basic data is there with the government, then begins the process of making that area open defecation-free by constructing toilets for every individual. In terms of finances, the central government allocates funds under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to each of the state to carry the process of constructing toilets and make an area ODF. The allocation of amount depends on few things like size of population, population living in rural and urban areas, the total number of people without the basic facility, and toilets in that particular state, to name a few.
2. Education And Awareness: One of the biggest challenges faced by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been that people who defecate in the open consider it a natural process and don’t feel the need for a toilet. So, even if government builds toilets for them, they do not use it – simply because they don’t see anything wrong with open defecation. So, in order to overcome this challenge, the government along with local bodies and NGOs carry out different activities to educate people about good sanitation practices and why having a toilet at home is necessary for an individual. Apart from the education, the government also tells people about how to use a toilet and how to construct one.
3. The Construction Process: Since India is a developing country and rural people don’t have enough money to build toilets for themselves, the government decided to help them out by giving a subsidised amount of Rs. 12,000 and Rs 15,000 (in case of SCs and STs). The central government’s share in the subsidy amount is Rs. 9,000 (75 per cent) and the state share is Rs. 3,000 (25 per cent).
However, there’s a twist. In order to get people to actually construct toilets, the government provides the money only after an individual has constructed a toilet. So, if Sushila Devi decides today to construct a toilet for herself, she has to simply follow this procedure:
a. Go to the local Swachh officer who is looking after the block where she lives and tell him or her that she wants to construct a toilet under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheme.
b. The Swachh officer will give her a receipt, which is a proof that she can start the construction process under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheme. Once the construction is complete, she will be liable for the subsidised amount.
c. Sushila just has to ensure that she completes the construction of toilet within 45-50 days. The toilet constructed by her should have a door, a water tank and a provision for light.
d. After the completion, Sushila will have to go back to the Swachh officer telling that her construction is complete and she needs the subsidised amount. She will also have to submit few documents like Ration Card, Aadhaar Card, Passbook Copy and one passport size photo. After the submission of documents, the officer will release the fund that is Rs. 12,000 or Rs. 15,000 (SCs and STs) which she will get in a timeframe of 15-20 days.
4. Open Defecation Free Verification By The Officers: For an area to get an ODF certificate, it is required that each and every household has a toilet. When individual toilet construction activities are carried out within the particular area under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan mission, it is the duty of the block officer and local bodies of that area along with NGOs deployed by the government to overlook the process of construction. All bodies are required to submit proof of construction in order to get ODF certificate in terms of photos, videos and data. The verification process happens at 3-4 levels and it varies from state to state –
a. First verification is done by the local officers of an area in which they collect the proofs of toilet construction along with the data to the village or panchayats.
b. Second level verification happens when the higher authorities visit random houses of that area and check the status of toilets. Once they are done, they submit proofs to the state asking them for the ODF certificate.
c. State then forwards the request to the central government and Quality Council Of India and then begin the process of mass verification in which documents are verified. There are also on-location checks done by NGOs deployed the central government and QCI officers.
Post ODF, What Next?
Toilet building is one target for the government, cleanliness and maintenance is another. So, once the toilet construction part is achieved, the government aims to make the areas ODF plus which refers to total sanitation in terms of solid waste management, improved sewerage lines, storm water drains and pucca cement roads, in addition to open defecation free status.