Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), launched in 1986 was the first major structured initiative of cleanliness in India. The objective of that programme was to construct the individual sanitary latrines for the personal use of BPL population. The idea was to improve the quality of the rural people and also to provide privacy and dignity to women.

Thereafter, the concept of sanitation was expanded to include personal hygiene, home sanitation, safe water, garbage disposal, excreta disposal and waste water disposal. With this broader concept of sanitation CRSP was restructured under the name “Total Sanitation Campaign” (TSC) from 1999 during Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government. Its aim was to eradicate open defecation by 2010. It gave strong emphasis on Information, Education, Communication (IEC) and hygiene education for effective behavior change with involvement of PRI’s, NGOs etc.

The UPA Government renamed Total Sanitation Campaign to “Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan” (NBA) with the aim to accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to achieve the vision of ‘Nirmal’ Bharat by 2022.

However, even in basic objective of providing households with toilet facility; the achievement on ground has been abysmally low as shown in below table.

Households with Toilet facility (in per cent)
YearsCensusNational Sample Survey
201131%35% (65th round in 2009)
200122%40%(58th round in 2002)
19919%29%(49th round in 1993)

The current NDA Government has restructured the existing programmes with renewed strategies in order to make the programme more comprehensive.

Swachch Bharat Abhiyan

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Mission, launched on 2nd of October 2014, is so far the largest programme on sanitation by Indian Government. It has two sub-Missions viz. Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). While rural mission comes under the purview of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; the urban mission comes under Ministry of Urban Development.

Key Objectives

The basic objective is to provide sanitation facilities to every family, including toilets, solid and liquid waste disposal systems, village cleanliness, and safe and adequate drinking water supply by 2nd October, 2019. It will be a befitting tribute to the Father of the Nation on his 150th birth anniversary.

Following are the some important objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

  • To eradicate the system of open defecation in India.
  • To convert the insanitary toilets into pour flush toilets.
  • To remove the system of manual scavenging.
  • To make people aware of healthy sanitation practices by bringing behavioral changes in people.
  • To link people with the programmes of sanitation and public health in order to generate public awareness.
  • To build up the urban local bodies strong in order to design, execute and operate all systems related to cleanliness.
  • To completely start the scientific processing, disposals reuse and recycling the Municipal Solid Waste.
  • To provide required environment for the private sectors to get participated in the Capital Expenditure for all the operations and maintenance costs related to the clean campaign.

Key Facts

  • Under the programme the Unit cost of the Individual Household Latrine (IHHL) has been enhanced from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 so as to provide for water availability, including for storing, hand-washing and cleaning of toilets.
  • Central share for IHHLs to be Rs. 9,000 (75 percent) from Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin). The State share to be Rs. 3,000 (25 percent). For North Eastern States, Jammu and Kashmir and Special category States, the Central share will be 10,800 and the State share Rs. 1,200 (90 percent:10 percent). Additional contributions from other sources will be permitted.
  • Provision to be included in the Indira Awas Yojana Programme for provision of functional toilets.
  • Discontinue the part funding from MGNREGA for the payment of incentives for the construction of IHHLs and pay the entire amount of Government of India share from the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).This will help in dealing with the problem of delay of funds in MNREGA.
  • Funding for these new initiatives will be through the following:
    Budgetary allocations;
    • Contributions to the Swachh Bharat Kosh (funded via Swachh Bharat Cess)
    • Through commitments under Corporate Social responsibility (CSR)
    • Funding assistance from multilateral sources

Issues and Analysis

Menace of Open Defecation: Toilet Building Should Be Accompanied By Behavioral Change

Open defecation is rampant in our country. According to a report by the World Health Organization, India is ranked the highest when it comes to the number of people practicing open defecation. The percentage reduction is also nominal, and we fall behind countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and so on. It 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 problem of open defecation can be analyzed on three levels.

  • First, due to poverty and lack of finance people are unable to build toilets.
  • Second, is the poor quality, inadequate numbers, poor maintenance of toilets and lack of water supply in public toilets has made the condition of most of our public toilets such that users prefer to defecate in the open. In other words, blame for open defecation due to poor infrastructure must rest squarely at the government’s door.
  • Third and the most important cause is the attitude of the people towards latrine usage. Most of the researches done on use of latrines have come up to the same conclusion that the people who have government latrines in their houses do not use them on the regular basis. Even when people have access to privately build latrines they perceive few health benefits of using a latrine.

Studies show that in 20-49% of even those households which have toilets within the house, at least one member defecates in the open.

Therefore latrine construction is not enough. Any successful campaign need to address why people do not use latrines in first place. So, there is a need to take a large scale awareness drive on negative effects of open defecation. This could be achieved through involvement of civil society and incentivizing local Panchayat with appropriate allocation of funds. However, the reduction in the budget of the Information Education and Communication (IEC) component (from 15 percent to 8 percent), which is critical to trigger behavioral change to ensure usage of toilets, is a matter of concern. It needs to be understood that without effective allocation of funds the programme will not achieve its required objectives. {Please read about the success of Banko Bikano campaign in Bikaner Rajasthan here}

Other initiatives like hygiene education can be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum, as opposed to leaving it to the discretion of State Education Boards to decide whether or not they want to include it. Once good hygiene habits have been inculcated into children, they can champion the cause of sanitation in their families and communities, thus, triggering much needed behavioral change. Any initiative without a behavioral change will bring no results.

Need To Focus On Outcome Driven Approach With Effective Monitoring

The problem with the earlier programmes is at the implementation level. Poor implementation of sanitation schemes is the reason that India is plagued with health and hygiene issues. A report by the UNICEF India and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) revealed that only 49 percent of the budget had been utilized between 1999 and 2011.

Poor utilization of funds, delay in the reach of funds and the lack of funds has been identified as some of the problems with the earlier programmes. Further, even if the funds are available the challenge has always been spending money in the right manner and that needs systems to be put in place. It also needs roles and responsibilities to be defined in a manner such that there is clear accountability for how the money is spent and what it is spent on.

Moreover, since the launch of Total Sanitation Campaign to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, there was focus on building more and more toilets. There was no concrete data pertaining to the usage of the toilets on a national level. The policy makers need to shift their approach from collecting data on building of toilets to collection of data of usage of toilets. Although the current programme focuses on the construction and usage component but effective monitoring needs to be in place to bring desired results. Along with this the mechanism for monitoring needs to be changed. For instance, the outcome of building toilets needs to be linked with the number decrease in the number of children dying due to diahorrea resulting from open defecation.

Therefore, unless robust monitoring mechanisms along with a shift outcome approach are put in place no effective results could be achieved.

Critical Assessment of the Programme

In the first nine months of 2014, about 25 lakh toilets were built and in the next three months about 24 lakh toilets were constructed – making it 49 lakh toilets built in fiscal year 2014-15. While that may seem like an impressive number, it pales in comparison to the gargantuan 11.12 crore toilets that need to be built over the next four years to achieve total saturation under the SBM. It is not clear how the jump from constructing just 50 lakh toilets per year to 2.6 crore toilets a year will be managed and done.

Further, a simple on-ground verification of numbers uploaded on the MDWS website in a few areas found that many of the toilets claimed may not actually exist on the ground. This was revealed when organizations working in those areas went to provide the communities where such toilets were built information on post-construction usage and instead found the toilets missing. This raises questions on the efficacy of the SBM’s monitoring systems. Also a lot of money has been spent on building of toilets without an indication, at least until now, of toilet usage.

Moreover, despite of the official statistics on the hundreds of thousands of toilets built in homes and schools, the scheme has been a non-starter because of lack of access to water (good/bad). If someone has to carry water pots home on her / his head for several kilometers, he / she is unlikely to be enthusiastic about pouring it down a drain just because someone has brought home the drain. The problem is that majority of the villages have no access to water facility. So proper sanitation is clearly out of question unless such an intervention is made, but the government is doing a reverse intervention of constructing toilets first and then taking care of other facilities.

However, the programme has achieved success in area of raising awareness about sanitation. Any cleanliness initiative will not achieve its objective without people’s participation. To that extent SBM surely deserves a credit. Other important initiatives include Bal Swatchata mission that was launched to inculcate cleanliness values and personal hygiene amongst children. This would go a long way in making behavioral changes towards cleanliness.

The Ministry of Railways has built bio-toilets for train coaches which will help in reducing manual scavenging.

Other proposals which are under consideration are- Urban Development Ministry planning to generate electricity and compost from municipal solid waste; then Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers would soon bring a proposal before Cabinet to provide Market Development Assistance on sale of city compost to farmers. Therefore initiatives are under way to bring about effective changes on the ground level. However ultimately time will only tell whether SBA is just an old model in a new package or an effective programme to bring about changes.

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