New Delhi: 2018, the year that was – From seeing the least progressive state under Swachh Bharat Mission, Bihar making its, not one, two but three districts open defecation free to world’s most successful and influential businessman and philanthropist, Bill Gates appreciating the work done under swachh bharat abhiyan initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the clean India movement gathered a lot of momentum this year. According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Swachh Bharat Mission, India’s sanitation coverage has successfully moved up to 98 per cent from mere 38 per cent in the year 2014, when Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was kick-started in the country in a bid to provide each and every individual access to safe sanitation and hygiene.
Status Of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan In Rural India
Since October 2, 2014, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, around 9 crore toilets (9,09,69,052) have been constructed in the rural parts of India. In 2018 alone, more than 2 crore toilets have been built. As a result, 534 districts and over 5 lakh (5,38,285) villages have achieved the open defecation free status in the country.
A few months ago, addressing the nation while launching the Swachhata Hi Seva movement across the country ahead of Mahatma Gandhi’s 149th birth anniversary on October 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Nobody had thought that India can construct 9 crore toilets in 4 years, but, we all did it. This is the result of the efforts of swachhagrahis (People working for Swachh Bharat Mission) from across the country.”
Not just PM Modi, the movement of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan also received a big thumbs up from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Mr Gates said, “Most governments do not talk about sanitation, therefore, it remains a hidden problem. The Indian government is to be congratulated for putting a focus on sanitation. Given that this is a long lead time in terms of capital investment and the processes, I feel good about the progress that’s been made in India.”
This is not the first time, Bill Gates has lauded the government’s commitment towards improving the sanitation in the country, in 2017 as well through his blog post titled ‘India Is Winning Its War On Human Waste’, Mr Gates talked about how he “loved” the mission, its uniqueness and the considerable progress it had managed to make in a short span of time.
For the first time, taking inspiration from its urban counterparts, Rural India unveiled Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2018, wherein, 6800 villages, 680 districts and 34,000 public places, across the country were ranked on the basis of its cleanliness-related parameters. The ministry also took feedback from 50 lakh citizens during the course of the Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2018.
This year, Rural Haryana, topped the chart of Swachh Survekshan – Grameen in North Zone, Rural Gujarat in West zone, Chhattisgarh in East Zone, Andhra Pradesh in South zone and Assam and Sikkim in North East zone.
Apart from Swachh Survekshan Grameen, this year the government also launched Swachh Bharat Summer Internship Programme, wherein the government asked youths to visit one or more villages during their summer vacations and contribute 100 hours and conduct activities of their choice to contribute to the cause of rural sanitation in India. The interns who will get excellent results will be awarded a cash reward and recognition at the national level. Students pursuing courses in higher education institutions will also be given two credit points for undergoing 15-days (100 hours) summer internship under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan activities.
Talking to NDTV on how programmes like Swachh Survekshan and 100-hour Swachh Internship is helping rural parts achieve the ODF target, a senior official from the ministry said,
These programmes contributed towards achieving the sanitation goal in one way or the other – wherever we are today is because of the efforts of swachhagrahis, who have contributed towards the cause of swachh India.
Giving an example, the officer said,
In Bihar, Sitamarhi became the first ODF district this year. The credit goes to all the swachhagrahis who helped construct 2 lakh toilets in mere two months’ time. Not just that, 20,000 swacchagrahis from across India came to Motihari for a week to work on behavioural change among people of 38 districts of Bihar and help the state achieve its swachhta target on priority. Whether people are helping construct toilets or simply motivating the villagers about constructing toilets, the end result always will be an open defecation free area. So, the motive of launching these activities and programmes is always helpful in meeting the end target of ODF country.
Status Of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan In Urban India
According to Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, 62 lakh Individual Household Toilets (IHHL) and 5 lakh Community and Public Toilet seats have been added in urban areas of India, making 21 states and Union Territories urban regions free from open defecation. Along with this, a major initiative of mapping of all public toilets in the country on Google maps has also been undertaken by the ministry to enable people to easily locate public conveniences. So far, 835 cities have uploaded more than 33,000 public toilets on google maps.
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra says that India’s urban sanitation ration is at 95% and the ministry is confident that they will be able to achieve ODF success before the target of October 2019.
As per the ministry, to make urban areas 100 per cent ODF, the government needs to build 67 lakhs individual toilets and 5.8 lakhs public toilets in the country. In the meantime, the Ministry of Housing & Urban affairs has launched ODF+ and ODF++ protocols’, with a focus on sustaining ODF tag and achieve holistic sanitation, wherein proper maintenance of toilets is done for their continued usage and safe management of faecal sludge from toilets is ensure so that no untreated sludge is discharged into open drains, water bodies or in the open.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – Creating Positive Strides
Speaking to NDTV about what sets Swachh Bharat Abhiyan apart from previously launched sanitation programmes in India, Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation said, “One of the things that really sets Swachh Bharat Mission apart from other programmes is that it is really caught on to people. It has today become like one of the biggest jan andolan, a people’s movement and has captured the imagination of a billion Indians. The focus of the government today is not on constructing toilets but on bringing in the behaviour change amoung people.”
Mr Iyer further added,
The most innovative technology under Swachh Bharat Mission is the twin-pit toilet. The toilet is a complete package in itself – one can build it for about Rs12,000 and after a year can actually start earning money from it. Once one pit is full with the excreta, you close and start using another pit, by the time the second one is full, the contents from the first pit is successfully converted into a very good compost, which can be sold in the market, as a result, you end up earning money.
Swachh Bharat Mission: What Experts Have To Say
World Health Organisation report states that by the time Swachh Bharat Abhiyan reaches its goal in 2019 and India becomes open defecation free (ODF), more than 3 lakh lives would have been saved because people will have access to safe sanitation.
The government-sponsored National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) conducted by an independent verification agency under World Bank also shows the positive side of Swachh Bharat Mission. As per the survey, usage of toilets in rural India is over 93 per cent in India, which means people are actually using toilets that are being constructed by the government successfully. But there are challenges.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Director General Sunita Narain says, “Building toilets is only the first and perhaps the easiest part. This cannot be seen as the ultimate yardstick of success. What are we doing with the immense amounts of solid and liquid waste that these millions of new toilets would be/are generating?”
Explaining how monumental the problem of not sorting faecal waste would be, CSE which did an assessment of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2017, highlighted that 1 lakh tonne of excreta every day is produced by 720 million people using 144 million household toilets. To sort such a massive amount of waste, more than 5,200 trucks would be needed every day.
CSE’s Programme Manager with rural water-waste management Sushmita Sengupta says,
If waste is not managed well, it can turn out to be a far bigger problem than that of open defecation. The untreated waste can contaminate everything – from land to water sources.
Naina Lal Kidwai, Chairperson, India Sanitation Coalition also stressed on the fact of shifting focus of government from becoming an open defecation free country to achieving ODF Plus targets that means total sanitation in terms of solid waste management, improved sewerage lines, stormwater drains and pucca cement roads, in addition to open defecation free tag.
Ms Kidwai says,
If ODF Plus targets are not met then for India, Swachh Bharat Mission will be a very expensive failure. It is time we all, even the government start working towards the treatment part of the excreta, otherwise getting a Clean India tag will be very tough.
Apart from the challenge of waste management, the last mile of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of attaining 100 per cent ODF status in less than a year, may not be easy. Three crore more toilets are needed to be built in rural parts of the country and five lakh toilets in urban parts of India, while that may seem achievable there are concerns emerging. Recently the Comptroller and Auditor General exposed cases of fudging of data in the state of Gujarat. It highlighted that in ODF Gujarat, 29 per cent of households still lack toilets and said that false claims have been made by the state in a rush to achieve ODF targets.
On the other hand, Centre Of Science and Environment’s 2017 assessment of Swachh Bharat Mission highlights that the government aspirational target of making India clean and open defecation free by October 2, 2019, looks like a tough goal. The report highlighted the tardy progress in four states of India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha in four years of Swachh Bharat Mission. These four states account for a massive 60 per cent of the people in India who defecate in the open and the report concluded that unless these states become open defecation-free, the world, and India, cannot meet their ODF target.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.