Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
In 2014, PM Modi launched Swachh Bharat Mission to make India open defecation free. In 2016, another dimension was added to the day by formally agreeing to the Paris Climate Change agreement. October 2 now has now growing significance in an Indian’s life.
Gandhiji and Swachh Bharat Mission
Gandhiji’s birth anniversary, Lal Bahadur Shashtriji’s birth anniversary, Paris agreement and Swachh Bharat Mission are all interconnected.
Gandhiji’s life message was for climate change- he led a frugal life. Today, the world is struggling to remain frugal. This was a key message from Gandhiji.
Sanitation was his pet peeve. He had a strong message about sanitation from beginning. And thus, October 2 was chosen to launch a sanitation drive of ‘Clean India’.
Also, now it is indeed an opportunity and challenge before the people to use October 2 for all the different messages put together.
Progress till now
Progress in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been rather slow in terms of actual coverage of toilets in urban and rural areas. However, it should be remembered that it is a process and not a product. If it is looked as a product, then number of toilets and construction of new toilets is an ongoing process.
What is important is that there has to be an environment created, a sense created across India to make people gear up to be clean. Progress should not be based on number of toilets but on how many people are aware about it.
About 37 districts have been declared open defecation free till now. In urban areas, community toilet construction is about 35% and the private toilet construction is also around 35%, 140 cities have door-to-door collection, segregation and transportation.
Issues that need attention
Construction of toilet as well as behavioural change have to go together to make India open defecation free. In 1980s, it was found out that people in rural areas wanted the infrastructure of toilets. After the toilets were provided, many of the users were not putting the toilet to use. It was for storage or animal feed. This practice has continued till today.
Many district studies has shown that atleast one person from the household is defecating outside. It means that psychologically they are finding some limitation in the kind of structure built for them. It is a small 3X3 structure, hence it is suffocating, no cleanliness facility with the dingy toilet. Thus it is a challenge is to design toilets for rural areas so that people can pick and choose a toilet structure that makes them use a toilet.
In rural areas, as compared to urban areas, the social-cultural setting is different. Why a women is let to use a same male toilet? This shows the different social setting and cultural construct. So, gender blind toilet contracts in rural areas would need some rethinking.
If one has to look into behavioural change, it is necessary to look into what perception is being carried when not using toilet. The statistics show that the person spends more than a year in toilet in his average lifetime. Thus, the toilet has to be somewhat engaging. On the design side, the state hasn’t done much. Hence, this is an open challenge to entrepreneurs and government to invest in it and this will add to bring more people to use toilet.
Sanitation in urban areas
Another issue can be drainage, sewage, waste management. These are still to be addressed.
The municipal waste management is related to climate change. On an average today, India produces half kg of solid waste per capita. The annual output is about 50 thousand tons per year. An inter-ministerial report has said that if this waste can be composted, as 40-50% of the waste is organic waste, it will generate enough manure to increase the organic carbon content in soil.
There have been waste mountains across cities. They are not converted into manure. Unless these mountains are being converted into manure and spread across un-infertile soil, the issue of agricultural productivity vis a vis climate change will not be addressed as they work in unison.
The entire climate debate is centred on carbon. Indian soil is very low in carbon. If it is low in carbon, it is not able to hold water for long time and the soil is not fertile to attain that level of productivity. So there is a need to have enough carbon resource. This is an opportunity where if municipal waste is removed by turning it into compost, there is double benefit. It is enriching the soil with carbon, it means it is reducing the co2 in atmosphere and also there is avoiding the undesirable burning of municipal waste.
Scarcity of water
The toilets have been provided but there is scarcity of water. People walk miles to fetch water for drinking and telling them to fetch more water for toilet is tough.
But the new schemes, the new subsidies given to household toilet building in rural areas has factored in this water element. So there is some storage part that has been added to the structure. But in terms of water being made available is still not solved.
In rural areas, the water system is decentralised, the houses are scattered. So providing water at different points would be a difficult task for any state. Thus, this has to be solved by the community and take help of states rather being entirely dependent on them.
Even in urban slums, urban construction sites, there are toilets hardly toilets. The elite and educated class also have a mindset which doesn’t allow its own maid/servant to use their house toilets and tell them to go outside. So in a way, the citizens are promoting open defecation.
Thus, the change in attitude is needed. The toilet and the idea of toilet emerged two three decades ago. Then, houses were good but not the toilets. Today, the toilets are as good as houses. But the inequality in the usage is a serious matter. For a solution, these issues have to be discussed over next few years.
The slogan on ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ is relevant to Paris agreement. The impact of climate change is being felt by the poor, especially by farmers. In last few weeks, AP and Telangana, the amount of rains received has made the fate of farmers poor. In areas with no rain, the fate of farmers is also worrisome. So, the entire climate change discourse is around farming and farmers as far as India is concerned.
Playing a coordinated role
Climate change, hygiene are also linked to health. The people don’t use toilet, then hygiene is not there, and thus they have to pay on account of their health. UNICEF stats of children dying of poor sanitation has been high. However, these are generic linkages which fail to pass the message to people that if one doesn’t have toilet then what exactly it leads to is not known in terms of health and sanitation to children.
For this, people and government have to play role co-ordinately. There needs to be constant promotion of sanitation awareness, building of toilets and understanding of need of behaviour change. If the message is in there for a longer time, the people will pick it up and change themselves.
School children, communities and SHGs should be targeted to send across the message in a stronger way.
Connecting the dots:
Is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan treading the path it has carved for it? What are the challenges and way forward for a ‘Clean India’?