Rural Sanitation and Swacchh Bharat
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TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
In News: WHO thumbs up for Swachh Bharat’s rural component.
- It is estimated that the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) will result in preventing more than three lakh deaths due to diarrhoea and protein-energy malnutrition between 2014-October 2019.
- India’s rural sanitation coverage escalated to 89.07% till August 2.
- Under the SBM-G, 19 States and Union Territories were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) and 7.9 crore toilets were built, while 421 districts were declared ODF. Also, more than 4.9 lakh villages in the country were declared ODF.
- Before the initiation of SBM-G, unsafe sanitation caused 199 million cases of diarrhoea annually.
Swachh Bharat Mission: The first sanitation programme in the country to measure outcomes (ODF) instead of output (toilets) alone. The SBM’s emphasis on behavior change in rural sanitation at the grassroots also leads to rigorous verification and sustainability of the benefits accrued to rural communities under the progress made. The SBM is a people’s movement, a true jan andolan, and it is this people’s participation that has led to the success being witnessed under the Mission. The Mission is on track to achieve an ODF India by October 2019.
Has the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Brought a Paradigm Shift in Rural Sanitation?
Efforts towards a ‘Swachh Bharat’
Commitment: A commitment has come from the highest level of government, with the prime minister himself doing “shramdan” for the construction of a twin pit toilet in a village in Varanasi.
Behaviour Change: For the first time, the government is focusing on triggering a collective behaviour change on a large scale instead of merely on the construction of toilets. Even the management information system of the government is counting communities and districts that have become open defecation free (ODF); earlier it was only counting the number of toilets.
Ensuring dignity of individuals: The large majority of our female citizens in rural India, no longer have to suffer the indignity of having to go out into the open to defecate. It marks a sea change in the dignity of their daily life.
Speed of Construction: The speed with which toilets are being constructed has also gained momentum.
Sustainability: There is a renewed focus on verification and sustainability of ODF status by monitoring toilet use.
Human Resources: Money has been allocated on a scale hitherto unheard of to hire the staff needed to mobilise communities around sanitation. Half a million ‘Swachhagrahis’ have been deployed in villages and districts. There has occurred an empanelment of key resource centres at the national level for capacity building on collective behaviour change.
Awareness: There is focus on senior male members of households to sensitise them through collective behaviour change (through Darwaza Band campaign). Use of social media for creating awareness is also happening. ‘Swachhata Preraks’ have been deployed in each district to support the district magistrates directly. Training of district officials is creating a new momentum.
Waste Management: There is a new focus on ODF plus, i.e. solid and liquid waste management. This is done with a view to incentivise sustainability of ODF status. Special sustainability funds and fund allocation to states on performance is also ongoing.
- More work is needed for the disabled – designing and building appropriate toilets for them.
- There is also the need for high-quality CLTS facilitators.
- Masons may also need refresher training focusing on the benefits of twin-pits.
- Strengthening of the supply chain is needed to ensure rapid availability of materials for toilet construction, through the establishment of supply-chain specific committees at district, block and gram panchayat level.
- Changing mindsets remains a challenge: acceptance of twin-pit toilets is still a problem. People in rural areas still think that a twin-pit is a government toilet for poor people.
- More information, education and communication (IEC) is needed to advocate that it is safe and scientific, easily built, costs less, is easy to empty and that the waste can be used as manure.
- Majority of the IEC funds have remained unutilised.
- Government officials are using coercive methods to stop open defecation to achieve targets. This is not behaviour change. Constant efforts are needed to correct a centuries-old problem in India.
- India’s subsidy programme creates unique problems. Major problems resulting from a subsidy-driven programme are: Constructing toilets without collective behaviour change; malpractices, low quality and inappropriate construction; lack of ownership and partial usage of toilets, with some household members continuing open defecation; leaving out of the disabled; declarations of ODF to meet targets when the reality lags far behind.
The Way Ahead:
- The success of such cleanliness programmes cannot be measured through factors like waste disposal and no open defecation alone; its role in reducing epidemic outbreak is equally important. Epidemics, particularly vector-borne epidemics (like malaria and dengue) and water-borne epidemics (like cholera and hepatitis) are considered by public health experts to be the most important determinant of cleanliness of the environment vis a vis its impact on the health of the community. Hence, an effective cleanliness drive should be impactful enough to reduce the number of epidemics reported from within the community.
- There is a need to persuade religious leaders especially men, to abandon open defecation. They can be asked to communicate the same to the villagers. This has resulted in quicker understanding and the involvement of religious leaders in triggering exercises has mobilised the whole community.
Usage of twin-pit technology need to be encouraged as it is a “complete treatment plant” in itself. In contrast to a septic tank, the total cost of a twin-pit toilet is no more than Rs 12, 000, and it does not need to be emptied – since its contents become ordinary manure once left to dry for a year.
Connecting the Dots:
- ‘Swachta and health are complementary to each other and therefore a horizontal approach to link the two is vital.’ Discuss.
- The Swachcha Bharat mission is not only a cleanliness campaign but also a socio-economic movement. Elaborate.
Swachh Survekshan: Undertaken by the Quality Council of India to check the progress and impact of SBA. The parameters of evaluation included
- Waste collection (sweeping and transportation)
- Municipal solid waste processing and disposal
- Open defecation and toilets
- Capacity building and information
- Education and behaviour change
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