At The Half-way Mark

The Swachh Bharat Mission has laid the foundations for a faster pace of change

Written by Naina Lal Kidwai | Published: July 31, 2017 12:05 am
swachh survekshan, chandigarh swachh survekshan, chandigarh swachh bharat ranking, swachh bharat ranking, india news, indian express news, chandigarh news There have seen numerous analyses, discussions and conclusions about the SBM. One recent media report mentions that the government is not measuring ODF, and rather tracks funds spent on latrine construction while putting out numbers about sanitation. (Representational)

India is midway into the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Since its inception on October 2, 2014, the ministries of Urban Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation have been spearheading the programme, with implementation happening at the state level. The key differentiator with the SBM is the prime minister’s ongoing focus which has percolated to district and block officials. It has also captured the imagination of the people of the country.

The SBM has witnessed several notable achievements in reducing open defecation thanks to the focus on behaviour change, need-based capacity building and constant measuring of outcomes. The last three years have seen an increase from 42 per cent to 65.02 per cent in national sanitation coverage. Five states, 149 districts and 2.08 lakh villages have already been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). Nearly 22 per cent of the cities and towns have been declared ODF; 50 per cent of the urban wards have achieved 100 per cent door-to-door solid waste collection; and over 20,000 Swachhagrahi volunteers are working across urban local bodies, and over a lakh are working in rural India. The number of schools with separate toilet facilities for girls has increased from 0.4 million (37 per cent) to almost one million (91 per cent).

There have seen numerous analyses, discussions and conclusions about the SBM. One recent media report mentions that the government is not measuring ODF, and rather tracks funds spent on latrine construction while putting out numbers about sanitation. This is not entirely correct, as there have been efforts to measure ODF. Of course, the modalities for the same can be debated and there may well be scope for improvement in the measurement protocols. Several sectoral experts are members of the Empowered Working Group (EWG), which is responsible for examining the survey methodology and setting protocols for the government’s upcoming national survey through the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) under the World Bank project.

One of the key differentiators of the SBM programme (and rightly so) is the decision by the government in November 2014 to make ODF the success parameter. It was made clear by the ministries concerned that progress will be tracked and evaluated only on this basis. This caused a paradigm shift in the thinking of the implementers as ODF measurement has a direct relationship with behaviour change. This policy shift led to ODF Monitoring Committees (or Nigrani Samitis) being formed at the village level, reflecting the community ownership of SBM. The monitoring committees’ key tasks were not to count the number of toilets but to ensure that no individual from the village resorts to open defecation. Anecdotal information and feedback from NGOs and others in the field suggests good progress on this front.

Sanitation, in a diverse country like India, encompasses a number of factors which are important determinants for the success of the mission. It has a direct relationship to caste, creed, religion and gender. A successful sanitation programme needs to address such factors, which makes achievement of safe sanitation a very complex exercise. Additionally, India has a large number of disabled people whose needs require customised solutions. Despite these challenges, we have seen a marked improvement in sanitation coverage since the launch of SBM.

Achieving ODF status alone is not sufficient for the success of SBM. Attention to the complete sanitation cycle is required, where toilets not only need to be built and used but the waste generated also needs to be collected and treated properly. The India Sanitation Coalition advocates safe and sustainable sanitation including design, implementation and practice. This is evident in the tag line BUMT (Build, Use, Maintain and Treat) to complete the entire sanitation chain. .

Achieving ODF is the collective responsibility of the entire nation, not just the government. We have now reached a stage where the need for BCC (Behaviour change communication) has been recognised.

Turning a large and populous country like India around is not an easy task. However, in less than three years we see that India is already course correcting and with the
momentum building, the pace of change going forward will be much faster.

The writer is chair, India Sanitation Coalition

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  1. J
    Jul 31, 2017 at 11:35 pm
    Leave villages. Go to small towns and cities and see how waste management is working. Its total failure. Waste management staff comes every 4-5 days once and behaves so arrogantly with people. Unless some tips is given frequently they refuse to collect waste from households. In metros waste management plants are not to the global standards and becoming dumping grounds again. There is lot be done to make SBM successful.
    1. Kuldeep Saxena
      Jul 31, 2017 at 11:00 pm
      The foundation stone of 'Clean India or Swatch Bharat' has been laid by Mr. Modi in addition to that the citizens of this country have also extended their hand to make it successful. It is very clear that every citizen of this country has understood the importance of cleanliness. need of the hour is how our citizens take their responsibility to keep their cities clean.It needs support from the state governments in addition to this our schools must start up on importance of clean India.There is a need of the hour is to educate our children to be in the main stream. For the purpose they need to be educated from the various films on cleanliness from Japan as well other countries. For programs like cleam India-Swatch Bharat it will be a faster way to attain higher success rate or make it work faster it will be grate contribution by the citizens of this country.
      1. Jitendra Desai
        Jul 31, 2017 at 9:02 pm
        What is important is the paradigm shift achieved by the govt functionaries and those leading the movement.All are being convinced that it is indeed possible to create our surroundings which are cleaner.Uptill now bovts used to blame people for their at udes and mind sets.No longer.
        1. A
          Jul 31, 2017 at 8:50 pm
          Very good news !! This was one of the best initiatives ever from the Indian government. Spreading this to grass/ roots and implementing this at the panchayat level is a very good move. Again with the raise in awareness and peoples co-operation with sanitation and garbage disposal programs, India can become Swach !!
          1. drisya adrisya
            Jul 31, 2017 at 8:31 pm
            It is pathetic that most of the morons who have commented on this post, instead of taking an objective view - i.e supporting what has worked and offering what needs to get better - has resorted to the usual rhetoric. If a non-political topic like cleanliness itself cannot get these morons out of their wicked mentality, no wonder it takes double the effort from the government
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