• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Has the Swachh Bharat Mission been a success or failure?

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched in 2014 with the aim of ensuring a ‘clean India’ by 2nd October 2019 as a fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th Birth Anniversary.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is indeed successful in acknowledging the unhygienic conditions in India. Instead of ignoring the sanitation issue, working towards the clean India is undoubtedly a good thing. Though the target seems unbelievable by 2019, the problem of open defecation will be reduced to a great extent by then.

The main objectives of this are:-

Eliminate open defecation.

Conversion of insanitary toilets to pour-flush toilets,

Eradication of manual scavenging,

100% collection and scientific processing/disposal reuse/recycle of Municipal Solid Waste,

To bring about a behavioural change in people with regards to healthy sanitation practices,

Create awareness among the citizens about sanitation and its linkages with public health.

Strengthening of urban local bodies to design, execute and operate systems,

To create an enabling environment for private sector participation in Capital Expenditure and Operation & Maintenance (O&M) costs.

It also happens to be the sixth anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a day when the political leadership and also aspiring politicians and self-proclaimed social activists will be out on the streets with brooms sweeping the roads, calling for a clean India. Surely, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has turned into a photo-op for many, as on other days the same people could well be found littering the place.

Last year the campaign completed five years, on the 150th anniversary of the Mahatma’s birth. On October 2 again, politicians and the activists will be out with brooms for that symbolic photographs that will show them cleaning a road during a function. Sadly, at the same time at other places there will be piles of garbage lying on roadsides, streets and in vacant plots.

Yes, there has been a considerable change in the mindset of the people where flinging out waste is concerned, especially after the awareness campaigns, but these have to be throughout the year. While doing so we have to also respect our sanitation workers who are disposing off the dirt we create. Daily wage workers from the Corporation of city and other municipalities and panchayats enter into drains without any protective clothing, gloves or masks, to clean them. For their efforts, the daily wager gets Rs 400-500 a day, and many skin infections as add ons. How can we say there will be a difference, unless the situation of these daily wagers improves?

The Swachh Bharat Mission has to lay emphasis on providing dignified livelihoods to all sanitation workers and informal waste pickers which is directly in line with the Mahatma’s vision of ensuring equality and inclusion for all sections of society. The focus on cleanliness is right but doing it just on this one day and looking elsewhere on all other days will never help. The mission has to be holistic. Apart from improving the conditions of the daily wagers the government also has to seriously introspect on whether all the state is really Open Defecation Free? The objective of the Swachh Bharat Mission is to make India Open Defecation Free. The Central government claims to have constructed 66 lakh individual household toilets and over 6 lakh community/public toilets in rural areas at a cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.

According to government data, since the beginning of the mission, it has achieved 105 per cent of the total target in constructing individual household toilets, 118 per cent in constructing community and public toilets.

The new SBM goals were set for a nation in the midst of modernisation, where millions have emerged from poverty, and most people have improved their housing and gained access to electricity, water, mass communications and education. India was therefore ready for modern toilets, and had the communications networks necessary to spread the idea rapidly.

The SBM(G) programme did not emerge anew but was set up in the context of a long line of previous national sanitation campaigns. These had had limited success, but provided experience concerning what worked and what did not.

(The article is solely the opinion of the author. The views expressed here are solely personal and not in any way connected to any organisation or any political party ).

Dr. Tapashi Gupta

Assoc Prof. Department of Zoology, Lumding College, Lumding, Assam.

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