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Insights into Editorial: Will Swachh Bharat Abhiyan be a success?

Insights into Editorial: Will Swachh Bharat Abhiyan be a success?

Will Swachh Bharat Abhiyan be a success?


Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a campaign which was launched on 2 October 2014, and aims to eradicate open defecation by 2019, and is a national campaign, covering 4,041 statutory cities and towns. Its predecessors were the “Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan” and before that the “Total Sanitation Campaign”.

It is reported that the idea was developed and initiated in March 2014 after a sanitation conference was organised by UNICEF India and the Indian Institute of Technology as part of the larger Total Sanitation Campaign, which the Indian government launched in 1999.

The government is aiming to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India

Swachhta Abhiyan has turned into a National Movement

A sense of responsibility has been evoked among the people through the Clean India Movement. With citizens now becoming active participants in cleanliness activities across the nation, the dream of a ‘Clean India’ once seen by Mahatma Gandhi has begun to get a shape.

People from different sections of the society have come forward and joined this mass movement of cleanliness. From government officials to jawans, bollywood actors to the sportspersons, industrialists to spiritual leaders, all have lined up for the noble work. Millions of people across the country have been day after day joining the cleanliness initiatives of the government departments, NGOs and local community centres to make India clean. Organising frequent cleanliness campaigns to spreading awareness about hygiene through plays and music is also being widely carried out across the nation.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has become a ‘Jan Andolan’ receiving tremendous support from the people. Citizens too have turned out in large numbers and pledged for a neat and cleaner India. Taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focussing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment have become a practice after the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

People have started to take part and are helping spread the message of ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness.’

From Behavior Change to Social Change

SBM was envisaged to be community led people’s movement with focus on behavioural change and not just construction of toilets. Other than ensuring hygiene, waste management and sanitation, the mission has been focusing on removing the bottlenecks that were hinder the progress in terms of capacity building, coordination, logistics, finance  etc.

How are we faring on the toilet construction front?

In the short span of three years, about 50 million toilets have been constructed in rural India, increasing the coverage from 39% to 69% now; another 3.8 million have sprung up in cities and towns and another 1.4 million are presently under construction. As against this, only 300,000 toilets were built during the 10-year period between 2004 and 2014.

  • So far, 248,000 villages have been revived from the disgrace of open defecation; 203 districts, over one-third of the total, have banished open defecation.
  • Five States have declared themselves Open Defecation Free (ODF) in rural areas: Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Haryana.
  • About 1,200 of our cities and towns, about one-third of the total, have already become ODF.
  • More importantly, all ODF claims are scrutinised by third-party independent verification.
  • As per an independent survey released by Quality Council of Indiain August 2017, overall national rural “household access to toilet” coverage increased to 62.45 per cent and usage of 91.29 per cent, with Haryana topping the national ranking with 99 per cent of households in rural areas covered and usage of 100 per cent.

One might cynically argue that building toilets is easier than putting them to use. This is valid only up to a point. Credible surveys show that 85% of toilets built under this mission are being used. Long-inculcated or forced habits take time to change, but they definitely will.

SBM campaign can transform the lives of Indian women

SBM is not a campaign to just clean India, but has a much deeper significance. If successful, this campaign can transform the lives of Indian women, bringing in its scope issues of women’s safety, their access to higher education and will even challenge the caste system.

All houses being built under the ‘Housing for All’ mission will have toilets and the title will vest in the name of women, either individually or jointly. This is about women’s empowerment, freeing them from domestic subjugation besides liberating them from humiliating open defecation.

Proper integration of various components of the sanitation chain such as ensuring water supply, seepage management, sewerage networks, prevention of manual scavenging and solid waste management form the key for the Swachh Bharat Mission. Given the efforts underway to make this chain work, the way forward is towards a Clean India.

SBM Urban component needs more fund allocation

  • For 2017-18, the government has allocated ₹13,948 crore for the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G) project; for the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) project, the allocation was merely ₹2,300 crore. This has to be seen in the light of the 2011 Census, according to which 31.16% of the total population lives in urban areas.
  • Also, the growth of population in urban areas is 32% over a decade and rural is 12%.
  • In urban areas, huge landfill sites running beyond capacity are the biggest problem.
  • Decentralisation, segregation of garbage at source, and encouraging community/household treatment of waste is the only viable alternative.
  • These alternatives have been successfully implemented at various places including Alappuzha in Kerala. The Centre for Science and Environment, in its survey of June 2016, assessed Alappuzha as the one of the leading cities in terms of innovation and improvement of the SWM, but the government’s Swachh Survekshan rated it poorly, which reflects the ill-conceived direction of SBM-U and its assessment parameters.

Need of the hour

  • The components of the problem in urban areas are very different from those in rural areas. A case study (Annual Status of Education Report) done in 2016 revealed that as many as 96.5% of rural elementary government schools had toilets, but more than one in four toilets (27.79%) were dysfunctional or locked. So importance should be given to the upkeep, maintenance and sustainability of these community infrastructures.
  • The focus of the SBM-G should be on behavioural change; the guidelines also require that 8% of the funds be allocated for information, education and communication activities. But during 2016-17, up to January 2017 only 1% of the total expenditure had been made on information, education and communication.
  • Swachh Survekshan is a ranking exercise to assess rural and urban areas for their levels of cleanliness and active implementation of Swachhata mission initiatives in a timely and innovative manner. It should be implemented successfully every year.
  • Empowerment holds the key to change, but that would depend on breaking caste barriers through education and economic uplift. Compensation sanctioned for the families of those who died in the course of the humiliating and hazardous work should be paid immediately;
  • Modernising the sewer lines and septic tanks and investing money and energy on smart techniques of sanitation


Today swachh Bharath mission and ODF has become a household name among children, women and men, evoking in them a sense of responsibility and pride in keeping their surroundings clean. The on-going mass mobilisation campaign ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ highlights sanitation as the real service to the nation. We owe a ‘Swachh Bharat’ to the Mahatma on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary in 2019.