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India@70: The Short-Lived Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan In 2012 Increased Toilet Building Subsidy Without Much Success

The Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan was the first campaign to converge toilet construction with other government programmes like MGNREGA, as well as identify some above poverty level citizens for whom toilet construction subsidies would be released

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan
  • The programme aimed to install toilets in all rural households by 2022
  • Toilet construction subsidy was increased to Rs 10,900
  • Rural sanitation coverage increased by 6 per cent between 2012 and 2014

The Total Sanitation Campaign helped in the improvement of the country’s sanitation coverage, but still fell short of expectations. A number of households remained without access to toilets and the cost of constructing toilets had gone up considerably, resulting in the subsidy amounts not covering the costs of building a toilet. In 2012, the Centre launched another national sanitation campaign. Titled Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), the campaign aimed to provide 100 per cent access to toilets in rural households by 2022. It was also the first programme to be converged with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Under MGNREGA, sanitation related works were included, allowing a beneficiary to earn up to Rs 5,400 while constructing a toilet or latrine. The government funding was also increased to Rs 5,500, bringing the total to Rs 10,900 as the subsidy.

The NBA also had a provision for select number of above poverty level households, allowing them to avail the subsidy. Small farmers, landless labourers, households where physically handicapped people or women were the sole earning members were eligible to receive subsidies. The NBA also restructured the implementation system, structuring it as a state>district>block>village plan. States were asked to implement and monitor objectives better and work district wise to make them open defecation free. The NBA in its brief duration could not do much to change the sanitation scenario in India. There was an increase of merely 6 per cent in rural sanitation coverage in two years between 2012 and 2014.

The short-lived Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan increased the subsidy amount and converged with other programmes such as MGNREGA

The short-lived Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan increased the subsidy amount and converged with other programmes such as MGNREGA

From 2010, the toilet construction spree had come down significantly and even the launch of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan could not help it. The government focus on sanitation died down all of a sudden and despite availability of funds. Only 2.07 crore toilets were constructed between 2009-10 to 2013-14. The numbers would be even less if we take into account the two years of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan’s existence, said Sushmita Sengupta, Programme Coordinator, Centre for Science and Environment.

A 2015 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said that NBA that the Central government failed to utilise more than Rs 3,100 crore for building toilets under the NBA. More than 9 states failed utilise Rs 212 crore each, resulting in their sanitation scenarios barely improving. Only 6 per cent toilets were constructed in convergence with MGNREGA and Indira Awaas Yojana, thus resulting in major lags in improving the sanitation scenario.

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