Is India cleaner now that Modi’s Swachh Bharat has been implemented?

On October 2, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began the Swachh Bharat Mission by sweeping the streets of Delhi with a broom. The programme, which features Mahatma Gandhi’s iconic spectacles as its emblem, is one of the Modi government’s most publicised initiatives. Its primary goal is to eliminate open defecation in India by October 2, 2019, by building at least 12 crore toilets in rural and urban homes.

The lack of visible faeces in the environment is termed as open defecation-free (ODF). India has the world’s highest rates of open defecation. A problem that has serious public health effects, including high levels of child malnutrition.

What does the government’s plan entail?

The government outlined a three-pronged strategy to achieve its goals under the Swachh Bharat Mission:

  • To modify behaviour, use social message, education, and communication.
  • Subsidies to underprivileged social groups to assist them in building latrines at home
  • Surveys and social audits are being used to verify and monitor the continuous use of these latrines.

The Mission is divided into two parts: a rural component under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. And an urban component under the Ministry of Housing Affairs.

Creating sustainable solid and liquid waste management systems, fostering social inclusion by increasing sanitation for women and marginalised populations. And eliminating manual scavenging are all goals of the Mission.

What has the government been concentrating on?

The Mission has concentrated nearly solely on toilet building and ownership in the four years since it was implemented. This is reflected in the program’s funding allocations.

In the urban component of Swachh Bharat, toilet construction was supposed to take up 33% of the budgeted allocation. While better solid waste management was supposed to take up 50%.

However, the Centre has allocated 51% of its portion of the urban budget to toilet building during the last four years. But only 38% to solid waste management.

What has been the experience on the ground?

The government pays Rs12,000 for a basic twin-pit family latrine built under the Mission. The Centre gives Rs7,200, with state governments covering the balance.

However, in many situations, toilets have been built under duress and threats. With district officials under pressure to meet the Mission’s goals. Households in numerous Rajasthan villages, for example, were compelled to build toilets under duress from panchayat (village council) officials who threatened to cut off their welfare benefits if they did not cooperate, according to this article. 

The Research Institute for Compassionate Economics revealed that Dalit. And Adivasi communities in north India encountered significant rates of threats, intimidation. And coercion from government employees attempting to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission, according to a 2018 poll.

What effect does this have on solid waste management?

Every day, India produces around 150,000 tonnes of municipal solid trash. Only 83 percent of waste is collected, and only about one-third of it is handled. As previously stated, the government has prioritised toilet building over waste management services.

Despite the fact that the budget for waste management has increased over time, at least 23 states/union territories were still waiting for funding in the last quarter of fiscal year 2016-17.

What effect does this have on manual scavenging?

While the rural component of Swachh Bharat is mute on the demeaning caste-based practise of manually cleaning human excreta. The urban rules identify the eradication of manual scavenging. As well as the rehabilitation of manual scavengers, as one of its primary aims. However, there is no evidence of a link between manual scavenging and caste.

However, the life of manual scavengers in Indian cities appear to have remained mostly unchanged during the four years of SBM. For example, despite being labelled 100% ODF. Open defecation and manual scavenging were widespread in places like Ahmedabad, according to a research by The Caravan magazine.

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