India is infamous in the world for being ‘dirty’ or ‘filthy’, mostly because this is the most highlighted aspect of our country, thanks to the widely acclaimed media content and movies such as Slumdog Millionaire where India is depicted as only having a lower than low socioeconomic class whose constituents live in the grim and grubs with the hope of escaping it all someday. The portrait of the real India differs starkly from this, but inevitably this dirt and filth element catches more attention before people decide to dig further into other conditions of the country.
Having said that, we are not denying that the country has cleanliness issues, it certainly does, probably on a much larger scale than you reckon. In response to this problem, Swachh Bharat Mission or Abhiyan was launched on 2nd October, 2014 as a 5-year-long cleanliness campaign by the Government of India. The campaign gained popularity all over the country, it also created a stir overseas. The following are the objectives of the campaign:
- Eliminate open defecation by constructing toilets for households, communities
- Eradicate manual scavenging
- Introduce modern and scientific municipal solid waste management practices
- Enable private sector participation in the sanitation sector
- Change people’s attitudes to sanitation and create awareness
After the inception of the campaign, people from all walks of life enthusiastically participated, even celebrities picked up the broom, to make the face of India much cleaner and free of toxic waste. What started with great momentum slowly saw a steep decrease; the campaign is now moving forward at a snail’s pace.
In 2013, the World Bank with the motive of helping India in reducing poverty resolved to loan US $3-5 billion for bettering the situation of the poor citizens of the country, along with technical and knowledge services for accurate implementation of the development program. Another loan of US $3.2 billion was also extended by the bank for various projects in India, including the ‘Clean Ganga’ campaign.
On 15th December, 2015, we saw the government taking up yet another loan. The World Bank approved a loan of US $1.5 billion for the SBM campaign, mainly for the rural component of this campaign which is the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBMG). This loan is targeted to provide sanitation facilities in the rural areas, to an estimate of 500 million people.
Sanitation is a major problem in rural areas, as it leads to a number of illness and deaths. While this initiative is much appreciated, we fear its fate. The government is taking repeated loans but due to a number of hindrances, the motive with which all these campaigns are started get obstructed and finally go down the drain. We are worried about the population of 194.6 million people who are undernourished and who suffer due to starvation in India despite the spectacular industrial and economic growth of the country. And about the 179.6 million people who live below the poverty line and the one third rural population of the country which is illiterate. All these problems are related but not equally focused upon. We just hope that more lives don’t get jeopardized as a result of taking repeated loans under the same objective, multiple times.
We shall wait and see how this loan is put into action, and if all the citizens in the rural areas have complete access to these facilities. Let’s just hope that if the implementation of this loan turns out to be a success, focus of the government and developmental policies shift with a greater magnitude towards other problems of the country.
What we can do as responsible citizens is to understand the importance of a clean environment and work towards the fulfillment of this motive for a much more sustainable India!