More than a 100 years ago Mahatma Gandhiji said, “Sanitation is more important than political independence”. Three years ago, to honour the Father of the Nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a clarion call on Gandhiji’s birthday, by launching the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission” (SBM or Clean India Mission) to sanitise the country by October 2, 2019—as a fitting tribute to Bapu on his 150th birth anniversary.
What is SBM?
- Universal sanitation is at the core of India’s development agenda. The Clean India Mission or SBM has two sub missions – SBM (Rural) and SBM (Urban). It aims to end the widespread practice of open defecation, build more toilets and improve waste management.
- The mission aims to build nearly 6.6 million individual household toilets and 500,000 community and public toilet seats.
Performance of SBM –
- The programme has crossed the halfway mark. About 3.85 million individual and 220,000 community toilets have been built. Many states have even surpassed the targets they had set for themselves to build toilets.
- The mission has catalysed several success stories—ranging from behavioural change in people to keeping villages clean and increased toilets usage. As it enters its fourth year, the widespread practice of open defecation has been curtailed.
- Till 2014, only 39 percent people had access to safe sanitation facilities. Today, five states, nearly 200 districts and nearly 240,000 villages across India have declared themselves “open defecation free” or ODF.
Effect on the ground –
- Accessible and secure toilets have brought in a big qualitative change in villagers’ lives, especially women who used to suffer mental torture—for their safety, security and dignity which faced danger.
- An independent survey conducted across 140,000 households by the accreditation body, Quality Council of India, found that more than 62 per cent households in rural India have access to toilets and over 91 per cent of them were using it.
- Another independent study by UNICEF found that improved sanitation results in major household savings. On an average, the cost-benefit ratio was 430 percent, “considering on one hand the expenditure from households and the government and on the other the financial savings induced by improved sanitation,” the study found.
Behavioural change –
- The mission is focusing on behavioural change, which requires dealing with a centuries-old deep-rooted habit of people going out for relieving themselves. Several interpersonal techniques through community approaches to sanitation are being used across the country to trigger behavioural change.
- Youth and stakeholders are being encouraged to come up with innovative solutions to problems for sustainable, environmental-friendly and affordable toilet technology for hilly, dry, flood-prone and remote areas.
- Unlike earlier open-ended programmes, the mission has been put on a fast track. Realising that this is a difficult and time-consuming venture involving behaviour change, sanitation has been made everyone’s business.
Gandhiji believed that cleanliness is next to only to godliness. A clean body, he said, cannot reside in an unclean city. Prime Minister Modi has also said: “Pehle Shauchalay, Phir Devalay.” First build toilets, and then build prayer houses”.
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