Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Insights into Editorial: In last five years, Swachh Bharat mission has captured people’s imagination

Insights into Editorial: In last five years, Swachh Bharat mission has captured people’s imagination


Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of an India where no one had to suffer the indignity of open defecation.

There cannot be a better tribute to him than the transformation of the country, in the last five years, from being the highest contributor to global open defecation to torch-bearer for global sanitation.

In the last five years, India has triggered a sanitation revolution.

The world recognises this, and the Global Goalkeepers Award that the PM was presented with during his recent visit to the US, more than vindicates his decision to put sanitation at the front and centre of India’s developmental agenda.


States prepared and dedicated an open defecation free (ODF) country to Gandhi@150:

It is timely for us to analyse how this campaign became the global benchmark for participatory and transformative development.

Team Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) has identified four key pillars of India’s sanitation revolution, which can, more or less, be applied to any large-scale transformation in the world.


Four key pillars of India’s sanitation revolution:

First, political leadership: Leaders at all levels are prime catalysts for large-scale transformations:

The biggest game-changer for the SBM, was the prime minister investing his personal political capital in the mission.

Inspired by his leadership and commitment, various chief ministers took up the cause, creating a domino-like effect, cascading leadership to the chief secretary and in turn to collectors, all the way down to sarpanchs at the grassroots level.


Second, Public financing:

Over Rs 1 lakh crore was committed to ensuring universal access to sanitation, thereby backing the political will with budgetary support.

About 90 per cent of the 10 crore households which received toilets were from socially and economically weaker sections of society and they received financial incentives to build and use toilets.


Third, Partnerships:

The SBM (G) partnered with implementors and influencers alike — national and international development agencies, media houses, civil society, celebrities, as well as all departments/ministries of the government of India, who pledged an additional $6 billion for sanitation in their respective sectors.

This “all hands on deck” approach, making sanitation everyone’s business, helped to mainstream it into the national consciousness.


Fourth, Peoples’ participation:

The SBM-G trained over half a million swachhagrahis, grassroots motivators, who triggered behaviour change in every village of India.

Ordinary people undertook extraordinary roles and inspired others to build and use toilets. Stories of sanitation champions emerged from every nook and corner of the country.

A large-scale transformation can be truly successful if it captures the imagination of the people, and becomes a people’s movement or a jan andolan.

While the four pillars provided the SBM-G its strategic focus, administrative disruption led to efficient on-ground implementation, which has traditionally been the Achilles heel of large programmes in India.


SBM adopts a multi-faced approach including:

  • Community participation: Ensuring appropriate participation of the beneficiary/communities, financially or otherwise, in the setting up of the toilets to promote ownership and sustained use.
  • Flexibility in Choice: SBM offers flexibility by building in a menu of options so that the poor/disadvantaged families can subsequently upgrade their toilets depending upon their requirements and their financial position.
  • Capacity Building: SBM augments the institutional capacity of district to change behaviour at the grassroots level and strengthen the capacities of implementing agencies so that the programme could be rolled in a time-bound manner and collective outcomes could be measured.
  • Instill Behavior change: Incentivizing the performance of State-level institutions to implement activities for behavioural change among communities.
  • Broad-based Engagement: SBM set up the Swachh Bharat Kosh to encourage Corporate Social Responsibility and accept contributions from private organizations, individuals and philanthropists.
  • Use of Technology: Information technology and social media is imperative to this program as it allows citizens to keep a check on the availability of toilets for every rural household in India.
  • Nearly 95 per cent of all SBM toilets have already been geo-tagged. Many mobile applications have been launched by not only the government but also by few citizens, which direct the municipal corporations’ attention towards unclear areas.
  • Under SBM, an incentive of Rs 12,000 is provided for construction of individual Household Latrines (IHHL) to eligible beneficiaries in rural areas and covers for provision of water storage.


Appreciation from various credible Institutions:

Economic Survey says that “SBM has brought in a remarkable transformation and traceable benefits to the society as a whole.

It is one of the largest cleanliness drives in the world. Many States have achieved the status of 100 per cent ODF and IHHL coverage, thereby has led to a sea change in the dignity of people, especially women.

This mission acts as a driver for eliminating the gender disparity through the construction of gender-specific latrines in public areas such as schools, roads and parks.

This public movement will have indirect positive impact on society by increasing the enrolment ratio of girls in schools and improving health standards.”


Way Forward:

The job is not over. We recently released the forward-looking 10-year sanitation strategy to move from ODF to ODF Plus, focusing on sustaining the SBM-G gains, ensuring that no one is left behind, and ensuring access to solid and liquid waste management for all villages.

The next ambitious goal announced by the PM on August 15 this year is to ensure piped water supply to all households by 2024.

This will be an additional shot in the arm for SBM-G’s sustainability efforts. India has achieved what was unimaginable a few years ago, but the show must go on.



India’s phenomenal journey towards sanitation for all have ensured the social, environmental and economic gains by ensuring that the behavioural change gets rooted in people’s consciousness.

The mission has brought one of the largest behavioural change in its citizenry.

The mission mirrors the National Developmental priorities by focusing on the gender equality and women empowerment.

Importantly, it is also aligned with the 2030 global sustainable development agenda and SDGs especially the SDG 6.2- “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying especial attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”.