‘Swachh Bharat Mission has been recognised as the world’s largest sanitation drive’
On August 15, 2014, in his maiden Independence Day address to the country, Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister of India to address open defecation from a national platform. It was a practice prevalent in India which had seemed difficult to curb. But the PM resolved to eradicate it in just five years. On October 2, 2014, the PM launched the ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), to achieve this goal. He has fulfilled his promise, as in just five years India has gone from being responsible for a large chunk of the world’s open defection burden to becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF)!
A people’s movement
The unprecedented success that Swachh Bharat Mission has achieved, especially in rural areas through Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G), is being lauded across the world. It is not only a sanitation success but a mass movement of around 1.25 billion people, resulting in changing an age-old habit of millions. Nearly 6,50,000 grassroots sanitation champions or swachhagrahis were trained to deliver sanitation messages in their villages. Largescale people’s participation campaigns like Swachhata Hi Seva, have seen participation of over 200million people. Under the Swachh Sundar Shauchalaya campaign, over 1.3 crore households across the country painted their toilets, evoking a sense of pride in their “izzat ghar” (house of pride).
The SBM has had a positive impact on the life, health, wealth and dignity of rural communities. Amplifying these benefits is SBM’s impact on the market economy and, in particular, job creation. The massive improvement in India’s sanitation coverage has resulted in direct employment opportunities for masons, labourers and industries involved in supplying sanitaryware, and also created indirect opportunities for several associated sectors.
The massive improvement in India’s sanitation coverage has resulted in direct employment opportunities for masons, labourers and industries involved in supplying sanitaryware, and also created indirect opportunities for several associated sectors
The SBM has contributed significantly to the country’s productivity. A study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has found that in Open Defecation Free areas, there were 32 per cent fewer cases of diarrhoea among children, 15 per cent fewer cases of stunting and 32 per cent fewer cases of women with below normal body mass index (BMI). Better nutrition and health for women and children directly contributes to higher school attendance and improved learning outcomes. The rapid improvements in sanitation have had a positive spin-off on various other sectors of development as well.
The way forward
The SBM is now focussing on its sustainability and ensuring that gaps in toilet coverage, if any, are plugged and that no one is left behind, as it actively moves to the next level – ODF Plus. ODF Plus is the broader goal of overall cleanliness in India’s villages. The key factors in becoming ODF Plus are ODF-Sustainability, Solid Waste Management (biodegradable and plastic) and Liquid Waste Management (greywater and faecal sludge management). A village would be considered ODF Plus if it continues to sustain its ODF status and safely manages its solid and liquid waste.
On August 15, 2019, the PM announced another big goal of achieving piped water supply for all households by 2024. The government has also taken a momentous step by creating a new ministry, the Ministry of Jal Shakti, by merging the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The stage is now set for an integrated approach to manage water more efficiently, preventing its wastage and maximising its utility