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The Other Side of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’

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By: Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi

Even though Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been successful in changing attitudes, mindsets and behaviours of people towards cleanliness and sanitation, and has not merely been a slogan like previous such missions but the prominent differences in its implementation at rural and urban areas may become hindrance in realizing its objectives till the end of 2019. Let us first have an overview of this mission first, then we will analyse its other side.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) or Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is a nation-wide campaign in India that aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India's cities, towns, and rural areas. The campaign's official name is in Hindiand translates to 'Clean India Mission' in English. This campaign involves the construction of latrines, promoting sanitation programmes in the rural areas, cleaning streets, roads and changing the infrastructure of the country to lead the country ahead. This campaign was officially launched by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on 145th birth anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi on 2nd of October in 2014 at Rajghat, New Delhi. The mission has two thrusts:Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (gramin or rural), which operates under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (urban), which operates under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

The objectives of Swachh Bharat are to reduce or eliminate open defecation through the construction of individual, cluster and community toilets.
The Swachh Bharat mission will also make an initiative of establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring latrine use. The government is aiming to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India, at a projected cost of ₹1.96 lakh crore (US$30 billion). “Sanitation is more important than Independence” was said by Mahatma Gandhi during his time before the independence of India. He was well aware of the bad and unclean situation of the India. That is why this campaign was launched on his birthday.

It finds its roots back to Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) which was started in 1986 all over the country which had focused to construct the individual sanitary latrines for the personal use of the people living below the poverty line. It had focused to convert the dry latrines to the low cost sanitary latrines, to construct latrines especially for rural women with other facilities of hand pump, bathing room, sanitation, washing hands, etc. Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) of cleanliness in India was started in 1999 by the Government of India in order to restructure the Rural Sanitation Programme. Nirmal Gram Puraskar was started in the month of June in 2003 as a sanitation programme to boost the Total Sanitation Campaign. It was a an incentive scheme launched by the Government of India in 2003 to award people for total sanitation coverage, maintaining clean environment as well as making villages open defecation-free villages by the Panchayats, Blocks and Districts.Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) was started in 2012 and then Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014 on 2nd of October.

However, all the sanitation and cleanliness programmes run by the Indian government earlier were not as effective as the current Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of 2014 due to the unrealistic approaches followed in earlier schemes.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan if financed by BSE that contributes ₹1.01 croreto Swachh Bharat Kosh. The programme has also received funds and technical support from the World Bank, corporations as part of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Several celebrities including film stars and sports person are involved in this campaigning.

Aims and Objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The campaign of Swachh Bharat launched by the government of India is aimed to accomplish various goals and fulfil the vision and mission of “Clean India” by 2nd of October 2019 which is 150th birth anniversary of the great Mahatma Gandhi. It has been expected that the investment would be over 62000 crore. Even though it has been declared by the government that this campaign is taken as “beyond politics” and “inspired by patriotism” which is realistic as far this part of world is concerned. Some important objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

  • To eradicate the system of open defecation in India.
  • To convert the insanitary toilets into pour flush toilets.
  • To remove the system of manual scavenging.
  • To make people aware of healthy sanitation practices by bringing behavioural changes in people.
  • To link people with the programmes of sanitation and public health in order to generate public awareness.
  • To build up the urban local bodies strong in order to design, execute and operate all systems related to cleanliness.
  • To completely start the scientific processing, disposals reuse and recycling the Municipal Solid Waste.
  • To provide required environment for the private sectors to get participated in the Capital Expenditure for all the operations and maintenance costs related to the clean campaign.

The mission is expected to contribute to India reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6(SDG 6) established by the UN in 2015.Since 2014 the government has constructed 86 million toilets, reducing the number of persons who openly defecate from 550 million to fewer than 1 million in 2018.To realise these objectives government has launched various awareness ads on TV and print media.

To check the progress and impact of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and to foster a spirit of competition among the cities, the Ministry of Urban Development has commissioned SwachhSarvekshan. The performance of each city is evaluated on five parameters:

  • Municipal solid waste, sweeping, collection and transportation
  • Municipal solid waste, processing and disposal of solid waste
  • Open defecation free/toilets
  • Capacity building and eLearning
  • Provision of public & community toilet seats
  • Information, education and communication, and behaviour change

The other side

Even though this campaign has been able to create awareness about different types of wastes , benefits in use of toilets, importance of hygiene to prevent various diseases, school children about various hygienic practices , waste segregation but as far as rural populace is concerned it needs to look into practical approach so as to make an impact in real sense. All these activities like taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focusing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment will have impact when there is no rural and urban divide.

People have started to take part and are helping spread the message of ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. Let us look at some practical situations that cause hindrances in implementation. Both rural and urban populace is awareabout the hazards of throwing waste in open but in rural areas even if the people collect garbage in homes, after some time they are not left with any option andremain in dilemma Where to put the garbage? and throw that on roadsides, alleyways and even in water bodies like streams, rivulets or ponds due lack of garbage collectors/sites and established dumping sites thereby the very motive of this campaign gets vanished .Nowhere we can find any garbage collection unit in villages anywhere in this part of country or for that matter in educational institutions where even emptying a dustbin at times becomes a matter of debate. In contrast urban populace have the option of collecting the waste in dustbins even segregating and then putting it in garbage collecting bins (Refuse Collector) of SMC whereby it then transported to garbage dumping sites. Department of Education this year celebrated a week, the purpose of which was sensitizing people towards essence of cleanliness and hygiene in the month of September but due to lack of established garbage sites in rural areas, the garbage collected was then thrown in open or put into water bodies.

The people concerned at the helm of affairs or executing agencies need to review their basic approach of implementation in view of the already discussed flaws wherein at least one garbage collecting bin (Refuse Collector) like in Municipalities is kept in every village which is emptied every fortnight at least so that the very motive of sensitization and ultimately this campaign is upheld not just taking a broom to pose for a photograph as has been the case. Similarly cleaning one area to make the life of people living in and around other areas (dumping sites) hell, the clear case of which is Achan Dumping Site due to non-scientific and rudimentary  way of disposing of the waste needs to have a relook as that is becoming a health hazard and pose serious threat to the inhabitants.

(Some content has been taken from SBM website and Wikipedia)

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