“Mahatma Gandhi never compromised on cleanliness. He gave us freedom. We should give him a Clean India”, read a tweet from the Prime Minister’s Office. This Gandhi Jayanti, Mr. Narendra Modi is all set to kick-start the Swachh Bharat or Clean India campaign. The campaign envisions cleaning the country and making India open-defecation free by 2019.
This vision of a clean India is not alien to us. Many schemes have been made, implemented, and fell way short of reaching the targets. Swachh Bharat is an extension of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which was operational since 2012 (preceded by Total Sanitation Campaign and centrally sponsored Rural Sanitation Programme).
But it is different this time around. Narendra Modi has given this initiative a new lease of life. The manner in which he has reached out to people and urged them to take up the mantle of making our country clean is heart-warming and more than welcome. Although it remains to be seen how well his rhetoric will impact the public participation in this “Swachchhata” mission. He has roped in schools, colleges, and government employees to participate in the inauguration, by cleaning their premises on October 2. Modi, who has ascertained to “set out with a broom” himself, has urged the public to take the pledge and actively participate in the mission.
As many as 1,34,000 crores have been allocated for building 11.11 crore toilets in the scheme. The cost of Individual household latrine has been enhanced from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000. Urban and Rural missions have been made exclusive, and budgetary allocation will thus be provided separately. Some other policy changes to the NBA have also been introduced. But the problem with NBA has been at the implementation level, not so much at the policy level. A report by the UNICEF India and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) revealed that only 49 percent of the budget had been utilised between 1999 and 2011. Poor utilisations of funds, delay in the reach of funds and the lack of funds have been identified as some of the problems with the whole Nirmal Bharat campaign.
Poor implementation of sanitation schemes is the reason that India is plagued with health and hygiene issues. Open defecation is rampant in India. According to a report by the World Health Organisation, India is ranked the highest when it comes to the number of people practising open defecation. The percentage reduction is also nominal, and we fall behind countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and so on. Open defecation does not only threaten health, hygiene and environment, but the lack of toilets is a roadblock in education of girls in our country, and a threat to security of women who go out in the open to relieve themselves. Many female students leave schools when they hit puberty due to the absence of separate toilets for boys and girls. The evil of manual scavenging still exists in our society due to the absence of toilets. Inadequate sanitation even has implication on the economy. According to a report by the World Bank, it has cost the economy Rs. 2.4 trillion.
The urgency of the issue and the need to cater to it is quite transparent. The problem is multi-dimensional. An unclean India is a threat to the environment, health and hygiene of the people, education of the girl child, safety of women, and economy of the country.
The policy level framework has been laid out; it is the implementation that needs to be taken care of. For that, the government at the second and third tier need to be more efficient and the citizens must also take the pledge to keep maintain cleanliness and contribute in making India clean by the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
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