“A clean India would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019”
This message by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October 2014 reverberated across the nation for the urgency and necessity of the task. The movement to build a clean and thriving nation has become a ‘Jan Andolan’.
In its four years, Modi government has undertaken multitudes of initiatives and schemes to achieve the herculean task and the results are for all to see.
Improved Sanitation Rural & Urban
Due to lack of proper sanitation, women in rural areas were forced to defecate in the open, posing grave risk to their safety. Their health would be in peril owing to the fact that, in absence of a toilet at home, they would have to wait for crack of dawn to go out and relieve themselves. Not to mention, the health risk defecating in open would cause to the community as a whole.
Owing to the above-mentioned ramifications of defecating in open, providing toilets in every home became a priority for the Modi government. The unified approach which led to public-private partnership on a wide scale, has led to transformational outcomes in a short duration. The rural sanitation coverage in India is now at 84.40%, an increase of 45.7 percentage points from 38.70% in 2014, since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan began. The gone years, especially 2017 saw rural district administrations across the nation conducting campaigns, engaging in door-to-door awareness programmes and spearheading toilet building workshops. As a result, over 3,70,243 villages and 387 districts have become open defecation free. 4,465 villages have become ODF under the purview of Namami Gange. Since 2nd October 2014, over 7.3 crore rural toilets have been built so far.
Urban waste is an enormous problem across the country that requires immediate attention. As per a report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), with the ever-increasing population, waste generation would also increase 5% with every passing year.
The current administration under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has worked extensively towards spreading awareness to ensure cleanliness in urban areas. Swachh Bharat (Urban) was launched with the objective to make 4,041 cities and towns Open Defecation Free by October 2019.
The government has built 3,18,630 community and public toilets in the cities across the nation so far. An astounding number of 46,80,840 individual toilets have been built and 2,239 cities have been declared open defecation free, all enhancing standard of living for the citizenry.
Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools are the primary drivers of this campaign. Earlier, girl students would drop out of the school due to lack of toilets, causing a huge gender gap in the education levels. The Swachh Bharat Mission aimed at providing separate toilets for girls in every school, thus leading to a decrease in the female dropout rates. As per a the programme targets were fully achieved with 4,17,796 toilets built for all 2,61,400-government elementary and secondary schools in a span of one year, beginning from 15th August, 2014. Some of the schools targeted were from the most difficult areas to reach such as districts facing Left Wing Extremism (LWE), dense forests, steep and rugged mountainous terrain and crowded slums. All 13.77 crore children in 11.21 lakh government schools all over the country now have access to toilet facilities.
Not Just a Toilet Building Activity
Critics have argued and tried to down play the success of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by calling it just a toilet building programme and terming it a failure in stopping epidemic outbreaks.
What needs to be understood is that the programme aims to achieve a widespread and long-lasting behavioural change within the society. Other than making a city or a village ODF, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan also includes spreading awareness on hand-washing habits, keeping surroundings clean, water management, construction activities, water storage practices, increased mobility of population, general human behavioural patterns etc. A shift in these patterns would definitely impact the overall health ecosystem. Let’s look at some of the measures taken towards in this regard:
Swasth Bharat Mobile Application: Launched in 2016, the application provides citizen detailed information about disease conditions, symptoms, first-aid, tips for healthy lifestyle.
Kayakalp Scheme: Under the scheme, one Primary Health Centre (PHC) in each district is awarded for meeting quality standards, including sanitation and hygiene. Under the SBM (Swachh Bharat Mission), the gram panchayat in which the PHC gets awarded under Kayakalp for that district will be noted, and special focus will be given to make it ODF at the earliest.
In 2015, the Ministry of Health, rolled out the Kayakalp Award scheme for Central government hospitals and for public health facilities in states/ UTs under the National Health Mission. It was aimed at encouraging and incentivising public health facilities in the country to demonstrate high levels of cleanliness, hygiene and infection control practices through a cycle of periodic assessments and certification.
Total Swachhata Campaign: The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched the programme encompassing safe drinking water, proper disposal of human excreta, environmental sanitation, personal and food hygiene, solid and liquid waste management activities and making gram panchayats ODF through the construction of toilets and inculcating a behavioural change.
Swachh Swasth Sarvatra: A joint initiative of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, launched in 2016, it aims at achieving better health outcomes through improved sanitation as well as bringing about a discernible change in people’s attitudes towards health and hygiene. It states that progression from Swachh Bharat to Swastha Bharat is a natural step and leverages achievements of two complementary programmes – Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Kayakalp of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare respectively.
Swachh Survekshan: Considered one of the most successful undertakings by the government, it is a ranking exercise to score rural and urban areas for their levels of cleanliness and active implementation of Swachhata mission initiatives.
The survey encourages large scale citizen participation and awareness generation across all sections of the society. The survey essentially inspires people to come together and work towards making their town and cities cleaner and greener.
The Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation have been conducting Swachh Survekshan in urban and rural areas respectively. Compared to scope of the survey in 2017 that covered 434 cities, the 2018 survey assessed all 4041 cities.
Ensuring Green & Clean Travels
Indian railways have undergone an overhaul with increased investments, greater focus on safety, better amenities and cutting-edge technology. While all this is widely talked about there is one important area which directly impacts the passenger experience, i.e. cleanliness in railways.
Recent data and information emerging from the Ministry suggest that there has been a marked improvement in cleanliness, which is in line with the vision and agenda of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission.
A total of 1.25 lakh Bio- toilets had been installed in railway coaches till March 2018. The figure falls in perspective when we learn that in the year 2013-14, number of bio-toilets installed in train coaches stood at mere 8024. 56,087 bio-toilets were installed in the year 2017-18 which was the highest ever. The target for the year was 40,000 bio-toilets but the final installations was 40 percent higher. It was also 64 percent higher than the 34,134 toilets installed in the year 2016-17. With this, the initiative covers about 60 percent of the coaching fleet of Indian Railways.
Bio-toilets have been installed in all trains plying on the identified 27 Green Corridors. With the rapid increase in the number of bio-toilets, commensurate human discharge in the open has been greatly reduced.
While addressing the Indian community at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2014, PM Modi said,
“If we are able to clean it, it will be a huge help for the 40 per cent population of the country. So, cleaning the Ganges is also an economic agenda.”
The government of India translating the vision into action launched ‘Namami Gange’, an integrated Ganga conservation mission to reduce pollution and revive the river Ganga. The river holds a special place in every Indian’s heart because of its socio-economic & cultural importance. A number of steps have been taken to restore the health of the river:
- 187 projects worth Rs. 16.56 thousand crore were sanctioned for various activities such as building sewage infrastructure, ghats and crematoria, river front development, river surface cleaning, institutional development, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, rural sanitation, and increasing public participation in cleaning of the river.
- 93 projects out of 187 were sanctioned for creation of 2205.08 MLD new sewage treatment plants (STPs), rehabilitation of 564.3 MLD of existing STPs and laying/rehabilitation of 4762.4 km sewer network for abatement of pollution in river Ganga and Yamuna.
Till now 13 projects have been completed which has created 198 MLD STP capacity, out of which 153 MLD is for river Ganga and 45 MLD is for river Yamuna.
Addressing the issue of sewage, 1147 km of sewage network has been laid so far. NMGC Executive Committee approved 44 projects worth Rs 7,547.87 crore to create adequate sewage treatment capacities across the Ganga basin States:
- Uttarakhand (17)
- Uttar Pradesh (10),
- Bihar (11)
- Jharkhand (1)
- West Bengal (3)
- Delhi (2)
Out of the 1109 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPIs), 333 were closed and closure notices were sent to the non-complying GPIs.
The Modi government’s vision to create a cleaner country has garnered support from all sections of the society. It has seen people participating in the movement at an unprecedented scale. The task at hand includes building toilets, ensuring cleanliness as well as bringing a transformational change in behavioural patterns. The concerted efforts of the private and public sector, since the commencement of the Mission, if continued, will definitely deliver a clean and healthy country.