PM Modi has energized the sanitation moment in India with Swachh Bharat Campaign. While launching the Swachh Bharat Mission at Rajpath in New Delhi, He said, “A clean India would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150 birth anniversary in 2019. It is critical for us as millions of people in India lack access to safe drinking water and also defecate in the open. Over 600,000 children under 5 years lose their lives to water and sanitation related diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia every year. So on 2nd October 2014, Swachh Bharat Mission was launched nationwide and it involves from construction of latrines, promoting sanitation programmes in the rural areas, cleaning streets, roads and in a way improving the overall standard of living. The aim of the mission is to cover all the rural and urban areas of the country to make this country as an ideal country. The mission has targeted aims like eliminating the open defecation, converting insanitary toilets into pour flush toilets, eradicating manual scavenging, complete disposal and reuse of solid and liquid wastes, bringing behavioural changes to people and motivate health practices, spreading cleanliness awareness among people, strengthening the cleanliness systems in the urban and rural areas as well as creating user friendly environment for all private sectors interested for investing in India for cleanliness maintenance. Government is committed to & has allocated funds in Budget and through Swachh Bharat cess service tax by .5% on all the services in India.
India accounts for 60% of the world’s open defecation and in that context campaign has set the tempo, but on the ground the progress of toilet construction in comparison to set targets is at a snail’s pace. Two years down the line, government statistics reveal that it has a long way to go before the goal of eliminating open defecation can be achieved. Inadequate funds, lack of capacity of municipalities and district panchayats to undertake this massive task, an ineffective awareness campaign that has failed to bring about behavioural changes among the people to use latrines, are among some of the reasons that are derailing the ambitious mission. The less than enthusiastic response from the private sector to take up toilet building has added to woes of the government.
The total budget of mission to make India clean is around whopping ₹133,000 crore over five years. But sadly the union budget slashed the allocation for SBM to ₹2,625 crore from the ₹4,260 crore allocated in 2014-15. The government tried to fill funding gap through a number of initiatives such as imposing a special Swachh Bharat Cess, activating the Swachh Bharat Kosh to tap Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds and getting states to pony up money from the increasing share of taxes and duties they will get from this year. But all these initiatives don’t seem sufficient to manage required funds. This year in 2016, government has allocated Rs 9,000 crore for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in general Budget for 2016-17. The Budget 2016-17 has earmarked Rs 9,000 crore for rural areas, while Rs 2,300 crore for the urban areas.
We even don’t have enough manpower or trained personnel to carry out this mission. The larger challenge is that of lack of trained human resources at every level, which has led to sub-optimal performance of mandated bodies like the State Water and Sanitation Missions and District Water and Sanitation Missions. To enable the creation of organic demand for sanitation among communities, SBM emphasises creating foot soldiers termed as Swacchata Doots but after nearly two years still in urban areas we have not even identified 15% of desired Swachhata Doots. There is a big gap in capacity of municipal bodies, which are primarily responsible for collection, transportation and treatment of both solid and liquid waste in urban areas. According to government data, only around 15% of solid waste is processed, indicating how under-equipped municipal bodies are to handle the mammoth task. And we are carelessly distributing Smart City tags that should have been gone to municipal bodies that are implementing Swachh Bharat mission effectively.
Changing behaviours is a huge challenge and requires engagement of community-based organisations and community leaders to make it work. IEC should make use of local cultures, motivations and belief systems to outreach the sanitation moment. One big gap that I have personally noticed is that there is no accountability and like in panchayats mukhiya has to be made accountable for construction & usage of these toilets. More importantly, hygiene education needs to be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum, as opposed to leaving it to the discretion of State Education Boards to decide whether or not they want to include it.
Time is running out and the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary is only three years away. The SBM should not become yet another mere renaming of scheme and we have to place a system of accountability to ensure that. And if we fail this time than legislation will be the only route to ensure toilet & minimum sanitation & hygiene standard in every home. Swachh Bharat mission will deliver only if the implementation is focused, time-bound and dedicated funding is made available. Regular monitoring and handholding of municipalities is also crucial. There is need to bring about a toilet usage culture through a sustained & geographically suited awareness campaigns. The campaign has to be run in a participatory mode and people have to take its ownership and that can only make the programme successful.