Cleaner sweep

Despite significant implementation hurdles, that the PM has made Swachh Bharat a political priority could yet energise the citizenry into taking ownership of the clean-up and drive behavioural change.

By: Express News Service | Published:October 2, 2015 12:10 am

Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the idea and project of Swachh Bharat in his first Independence Day address from the ramparts of Red Fort, as he urged politicians and corporations to use discretionary funds to build latrines, and linked cleanliness to national pride. On October 2, 2014, when the mission was formally launched, he sought to build a broad alliance to spread awareness of the campaign, recruiting celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar, Salman Khan, Shashi Tharoor and Anil Ambani via social media.

It was an idea with wide resonance — apart from the visible filth that dots community spaces, two-thirds of the 1.1 billion people who practise open defecation and a quarter of the 1.5 million who die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor hygiene and sanitation live in India. Despite significant implementation hurdles, that the PM has made Swachh Bharat a political priority could yet energise the citizenry into taking ownership of the clean-up and drive behavioural change.

Twelve months on, studies, however, show that the mission is struggling to meet its targets. Primarily intended to “promote cleanliness and hygiene and eliminate open defecation”, with an emphasis on constructing toilets, the ministry of drinking water and sanitation has built 95.23 lakh toilets so far in rural areas — slow progress if it has to hit the 12-crore mark by 2019 — and only a fifth of the yearly target for urban areas has been met. The mission is also lagging behind in its waste collection, transportation and disposal goals. Swachh Bharat has also not done enough to counter criticism that it is too focused on building physical facilities and is scant on detail on how behavioural change could be effected.

The Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, for instance, found in a 2014 report that more than half the people with government-built latrines don’t use them and at least one member from 40 per cent of households with working toilets nevertheless defecated in the open, citing comfort and convenience.

For it to succeed, Swachh Bharat will also have to account for the culture of purity and pollution rural sanitation is embedded in, and more carefully negotiate issues of caste on the ground. A recent study in the BMC Public Health found that “strongly ingrained beliefs around impurity and pollution and the required rituals for purification and cleansing post-defecation in Indian society may play a big part in the choice to continue defecating in the open”. Modi’s use of his bully pulpit has focused much-needed attention on a dirty reality of Indian society, but a cleansing will take more.

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  1. J
    j s
    Oct 2, 2015 at 6:56 am
    Clean minds and hearts. There is pollution in minds and outside. We need cleanliness both inside (minds) and outside. Only then we can establish peaceful co-existence. Jarnail Singh Dhillon
  2. G
    G M
    Oct 2, 2015 at 1:32 am
    The stains of blood of natives which defecate India on daily basis are extremely shameful. Therefore , hi ji's swaksh bharat abhiyan based on non violence is required to take on blood thirsty divisive anti national religious extremist elements. Modi ji are you listening? Superficial cleanliness is useless. Please improve to next level of cleanliness where no blood of Human's is allowed to shed.
  3. H
    Hanamant Kulkarni
    Oct 3, 2015 at 10:21 am
    Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, is the PM's 'Awareness mission' which seems to be misinterpreted that PM himself or through the Govt funds and machinery would clean the dirt created by citizens. He has tried to enlist the co-operation of people of eminence, Corporate bodies, Media and above all the people at large. As this menace is deeply ingrained, to make people to be aware of the issue is long drawn battle. The funds at the disposal of the Govt. being small, it is the people who have to create awareness. Indian Express has by its editorials, and through its Express News Service always tried to bring home loop s in the scheme and criticize the Govt. It is the duty of every "Indian" to be ashamed of the unclean cities and villages. Instead of finding fault with the Govt., Indian Express, unless it is "UN-INDIAN EXPRESS" should tell us what it has contributed to this mission and what it would do to make the mission a success. It is not the target of PM - MODI, but it is target is for all of us including Indian Express.
  4. J
    Oct 2, 2015 at 8:13 pm
    For swachh Bharat abhiyan what Government should and shouldn't do is not the question but what people can themselves do is more relevant. Instead of giving lectures that Government has not done this and that all the writer themselves should think what was their contribution in this? when every one thinks it is their country and they should keep it clean it can happen by advising to others is no use.
  5. R
    Rabindra Nath Roy
    Oct 3, 2015 at 3:36 pm
    Amongst the cleanest of the countries in the world are mostly in Europe and America, which we have heard from these celebrities that how come Indians going abroad practice cleanliness the way they do it? These countries did not indulge in lectures for making their country clean. Men practicing dirty politics and nursing contempt for their adversaries are the people who make much noise and do nothing. For last 10 years Manmohan Singh called it "Nirmal Bharat" and alloted money for toilets all over the nation. Look at the performance of Gujrat Govt. then CM was Narendra Modi, In CAG report it says that the money allotted for the No. of toilets were spent in full but the Number of Toilets in the areas which were taken up for survey did not have the number of toilets. The writer is misleading the readers by saying the scheme was launched in 2014August 15. The toilets without water supply and other arrangements of cleaning it would become godown for the poor and the practice would remain. If cleaning of Roads and streets and no defecation outside were to be swachchh Bharat then even that target is achieved Bharat is going to be no different. One need not worry about not achieving of the target for the manited survey reports would show that as it has been shown during the regime of Modi, CM in Gujrat.
  6. A
    Oct 3, 2015 at 5:56 pm
    Name any toilet here which may be cleaner that the least clean town of the Hippies in UK.
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