Breaking down the reality Of PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission: Ground realities expose poor sanitation coverage

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) on October 2, 2014, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) on October 2, 2014, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) on October 2, 2014, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. But the scheme is actually the previous Congress-led United Progress Alliance government’s initiative Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan. In September 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had approved a proposal that Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan scheme be restructured into Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, according to a government release.

Under UPA-II, Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan was the new name adopted for the Total Sanitation Campaign on April 1, 2012.

Even though Modi launched the scheme with much pomp and show, it failed to give the desired result on the ground. Nearly 75 per cent of 1.7 lakh tonnes of garbage that cities and towns generate daily goes to landfill sites or dumping yards untreated. The municipal bodies cover only 44,650 out of 81,000 municipal wards through their door-to-door collection scheme.

Even though efforts are being made to promote segregation of waste at generation, it is hardly being done. Since 2014, construction of public and community toilets has touched 2.26 lakh, but there is no maintenance across urban areas. In order to popularise the campaign, time and again, Modi has engaged several personalities from different walks of life who were seen carrying brooms and making a small contribution in cleaning India.

So far 30.74 lakh household toilets have been built against the target of 65.82 lakh by October 2019, not surpassing the half-way mark.

In 2010 and 2011, the UPA built 1.24 lakh and 1.22 lakh toilets, costing Rs 1,797 per toilet and Rs 1,467 per toilet respectively. The BJP government on the other hand, in 2015 and 2016 only managed 0.58 lakh and 1.26 lakh toilets at a highly inefficient cost of Rs 5,294 per toilet and Rs 5,455 per toilet respectively, INC reported.

As far as garbage processing is concerned, the national capital has already witnessed days when the garbage covered over half of the road and a political blame game being played over it. The municipal workers refused to work due to non-payment of salaries leaving the capital to stink. The financial health of civic bodies is poor and it’s almost impossible for small ones to fund treating waste.

At times, the filth is being dumped on the outskirts of cities which defeat the purpose of the campaign, an urban affairs ministry official said. Majority of the garbage that urban areas generate is wet and bio-degradable and the focus is to make compost from it, he said.

One hundred forty five plants have been set up by state and municipalities that can produce 15 lakh tonnes of compost annually. But they are working at only 14 per cent capacity.


An abandoned toilet in Reamal Block of Deogarh district. Image courtesy Manish Kumar

Odisha is one example of this. In Jampada village of Jharsuguda, a declared 100 percent ODF district, there are 40 households and all of them do have a toilet. But they are not used as the village does not have a water supply. All that it has is a single handpump outside the village. Some other villages in Jharsuguda and Deogarh in Odisha, both ODF districts, tell a similar story.

As per statistics on Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural) as on 15 May, 17 states, 385 districts and 3,61,007 villages in India have been declared Open Defecation Free where toilets have been built for all individual households, though the statistics do not say how many of these villages and toilets have dependable and adequate water supply.

Worst sanitation coverage in Odisha

Odisha, as per records, is now the worst performing state with just 54.48 percent sanitation coverage. But a visit to two districts, Deogarh and Jharsuguda, which are declared ODF, throw up some interesting facts and details. Especially on why not a single person uses the toilets built for every household.

Declared ODF without verification

An abandoned toilet in the Jampada village inJharsuguda district in Odhisha. Image courtesy Manish Kumar

Lack of water apart, other guidelines mandated under the Swachh Bharat mission are also not followed in many of the so-called ODF districts. NGOs and others involved in the project said that district officials entrusted with the task are more concerned in showing the number of toilets constructed and do not focus on training and behavioural change activities as they do not have the expertise in social engineering, which makes the whole exercise futile at the ground level.

There are also around 3,000 households not included in the list prepared in 2014 after a household survey, according to a consultant to SBM in Deogarh district. Chingulijharan in Deogarh is one such village, which got no assistance under Swachh Bharat. “Some of us constructed toilets,” said Pradeep Majhi, a villager, “but we are still waiting for the assistance.”



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