Sanitation will be an election issue in upcoming polls as people living in cities and towns will vote for those who vouch for hygiene and such a political implication will help in effective implementation of Centre’s ambitious ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has said. The Urban Development Minister also exuded confidence that the NDA government will achieve all the stated objectives of the flagship programme, including making India open defecation free (ODF) by 2019. “Sanitation is becoming an issue with the people. As we go along, it will become a political and even election issue. Citizens in urban areas will vote for those who ensure hygiene.
“I am sure political parties who know how to garner votes will factor this in their calculations. These political implications will drive the success of this important mission,” Naidu told PTI in an interview. Interestingly, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), an NDA constituent, earlier this week had announced formation of ‘Swachh Abhiyan Samiti’ within the party to push the agenda of the programme, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi two years ago.
Modi had given a clarion call to make the Clean India campaign a mass movement. Naidu stressed that behavior change towards using toilets and dumping waste in garbage bins is “key” to the mission’s success. To a question, Naidu sought to allay apprehension that the government may miss the deadline of achieving the goal of making India ODF, saying the stated objectives of the Mission will “surely” be attained.
He said the Centre has managed to attain 35 per cent of the target of constructing individual household toilets during 40 per cent of the mission period, suggesting that implementation of the programme is on-track. Buttressing his claim, Naidu said 22.97 lakh individual household toilets have been built in urban areas since the mission’s launch as against the stated target of constructing 66.42 lakh toilets. He said Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have already declared themselves as ODF in urban areas, while Kerala is going to make such announcement “very soon”.
Naidu said that a total of 405 cities and towns have been declared by respective states as ODF. Nearly as many will be declared ODF by March next year, he added. “During the first year of this mission, progress was slow but picked up momentum over the last one year. This was primarily on account of growing awareness among people about sanitation and spirit of competition among the states and urban local bodies further to ranking of cities based on sanitation levels,” Naidu said.
The Minister observed that managing solid waste generated in country’s urban areas was a “bigger challenge” and spoke about the government’s focus on ‘door-to-door’ collection of refuse, its transportation and scientific processing to tackle the problem.
He said the government has plans afoot to manage 65 million of tonnes of solid waste generated in cities and towns and convert it into 50 lakh tonnes of compost and 400 MW of energy annually. “To encourage these waste-to-wealth projects, the government has come out with policy initiatives like extending market assistance of Rs 1,500 per each tonne of compost produced and purchase of power generated from solid waste by the DISCOMS has been made mandatory,” said the Minister.
He said, “Attitudes are changing certainly with rising awareness about sanitation and the implications of poor hygiene. These efforts need to be changed into a jan andolan as called for by the Prime Minister.”