It was 15th August 2014, when the then newly elected Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi announced a new scheme, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) during his Independence day speech from Red Fort in New Delhi. After, father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, it seems Modi is the only national leader who took sanitation as the top most priority of the country. To solve any problem, one must talk about it. And right from the launch of SBM on 2nd October 2014, the government is taking utmost efforts to make sanitation everybody’s business. SBM has set the target of making India Open Defecation Free by 2nd October 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
Pathogens thriving on human feces and they enter out body and suck our nutrients leading to retarded growth and anaemia. Without proper public toilets, many ladies tend to travel less and thus their freedom gets curtailed. Many males in our patriarchal society fail to give heed to needs of our women including that of a toilet. Lack of access to toilet at home makes them hold on their feces and urine for long time leading to complications later. Access to toilet saves us from diseases and restores the dignity of our women.
As per the United Nations, ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ for all is a Sustainable Development Goal(SDG) to be achieved by 2030. Thus, Swachh Bharat Mission is the answer that India is giving to the world.
At this juncture, we must note that SBM is not the first scheme launched by the union government to tackle the problem of toilets. The Government of India has been working for improving sanitation in India right from 1986. The first scheme was Central Rural Sanitation Program in 1986, followed by Total Sanitation Campaign in 1999 and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan in 2012, all of which were pretty unsuccessful.
What is special about SBM that it might succeed whereas others failed?
A combination of factors are at play. SBM gives equal importance to both toilet construction as well as behaviour change communication. Whereas earlier schemes dealt with construction alone, SBM gives more thrust to awareness generation. To generate a sense of ownership, the beneficiary is first motivated to construct toilet and then given the incentive of Rs.12000/- per unit. Please note the word ‘incentive’. It is a not a subsidy for constructing the toilet, but an incentive for the change in their behavior of using toilet instead of defecating in open.
The ultimate outcome is the number of villages declared open defecation free rather than number of toilets constructed.
The demand for toilets is generated by Information Education Communication and Interpersonal Communication. If this step is not done, then there won’t be any ownership for the toilets and they might end up being used as storeroom. The government has instructed district administration to nominate one person in every village who would take up the onus of making the village Open Defecation Free. He/she would do door to door campaign, arrange meetings, facilitate in construction of toilets and monitor the usage. The person was aptly named Swacchagrahi just like Gandhi named followers of non-violence as Satyagrahi. Open Defecation Free status can only be achieved with active participation and convergence of field level staff of all stakeholder departments like the health, education and women and child welfare departments.
The person was aptly named Swacchagrahi just like Gandhi named followers of non-violence as Satyagrahi.
The mission also focuses on establishment and maintenance of men’s and women’s sanitary complexes with provision of incinerators for burning sanitary napkins. Solid and liquid waste management infrastructure for the village is also planned and established. This mission can become successful only when each and everyone gets involved and this becomes a revolution like the Independence movement.
To tell the success of this story, Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention is being organised in New Delhi from 29th September to 2nd October 2018, wherein United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres and sanitation ministers from around 80 countries are expected to attend. India is setting an example for all the developing countries across the world. Solving the sanitation problem, ultimately leads to improvement in Human Development Index.
Ashwin Kumar, Zilla Swachh Bharat Prerak – Pudhukottai district, Tamil Nadu.