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Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: A National Movement for Cleanliness

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014, is a national campaign to achieve

By Ground Report
New Update
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: A National Movement for Cleanliness

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014, is a national campaign to achieve a clean and open defecation-free (ODF), as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.

The mission has been hailed as the world’s largest sanitation initiative, covering over 10 crore households and constructing more than 11 crore toilets across the country. The mission has also brought about a significant behavioural change in the people regarding healthy sanitation practices, leading to improved health, hygiene, and environmental outcomes.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Objectives, Needs and Importance

The main objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are:

  • Eliminate open defecation by providing access to toilets for all rural and urban households
  • Eradicate manual scavenging and ensure dignity and safety of sanitation workers
  • Promote effective solid and liquid waste management in rural and urban areas
  • Enhance awareness and education on sanitation and hygiene among the masses
  • Foster community participation and ownership of the sanitation movement

The need and importance of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan can be understood from the following facts:

  • India accounted for 60% of the world’s open defecation in 2014, posing a serious threat to public health and safety
  • Open defecation and poor sanitation were responsible for an estimated 1.5 lakh deaths per year due to diarrhoeal diseases, and a loss of 6.4% of GDP due to health and productivity losses
  • Lack of toilets and sanitation facilities also affected the education, empowerment, and security of women and girls, who faced harassment, violence, and dropout rates
  • Poor waste management and disposal led to environmental pollution, degradation, and climate change, affecting the quality of life and natural resources

Swachh Bharat Mission: Implementation and Achievements

The Swachh Bharat Mission has been implemented in two phases: Phase 1 (2014-2019) and Phase 2 (2020-2025). The first phase focused on achieving an ODF India by constructing toilets and creating demand for sanitation through behaviour change communication. The second phase aims to sustain the ODF status and enhance the management of solid and liquid waste, transforming villages from ODF to ODF Plus.

The implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission has been guided by the following principles:

  • Political leadership and commitment at all levels of governance
  • Decentralized planning and execution by local bodies and communities
  • Incentivization and recognition of best performers and innovators
  • Convergence and collaboration with various stakeholders and sectors
  • Monitoring and evaluation of outcomes and impacts using technology and data

The achievements of the Swachh Bharat Mission have been remarkable and unprecedented. Some of the key achievements are:

  • India declared itself ODF on October 2, 2019, with 100% sanitation coverage and over 6 lakh villages becoming ODF
  • Over 11 crore toilets have been constructed, benefiting more than 55 crore people, especially women and children
  • Over 10 lakh sanitation workers have been identified and provided with social security and skill development
  • Over 5.5 lakh villages have declared themselves ODF Plus, with arrangements for solid and liquid waste management
  • The mission has contributed to the reduction of diarrhoeal deaths, stunting, and malnutrition among children, and increased school attendance and learning outcomes
  • The mission has also generated employment, income, and savings for the rural and urban poor, and enhanced their dignity and empowerment
  • The mission has received global recognition and appreciation, and inspired other countries to adopt similar models of sanitation

Swachh Bharat Mission: challenges and way forward

The Swachh Bharat Mission, despite its remarkable achievements, faces some challenges and gaps that need to be addressed. Some of the challenges are :

  • Ensuring the sustainability and quality of the ODF status and preventing slippages and reversion to open defecation
  • Scaling up and strengthening the solid and liquid waste management systems and infrastructure in rural and urban areas
  • Addressing the gaps and issues in the faecal sludge and septage management, especially in peri-urban and informal settlements
  • Enhancing the capacity and accountability of the local bodies and communities to plan, implement, and monitor the sanitation programmes
  • Increasing the financial and technical resources and support for the sanitation sector, and ensuring transparency and efficiency in their utilization
  • Promoting innovation and research in the sanitation technologies and practices, and creating a conducive ecosystem for their adoption and dissemination
  • Strengthening the behaviour change communication and social mobilization strategies to reinforce the sanitation norms and culture among the masses

Continuing progress, holistic sanitation approach

The way forward for the Swachh Bharat Mission is to build on the momentum and achievements of the first phase, and address the challenges and gaps of the second phase. The mission needs to adopt a holistic and integrated approach to sanitation, encompassing the entire sanitation value chain, from toilet access and usage, to waste collection, treatment, and disposal or reuse.

The Swachh Bharat Mission also needs to leverage the potential of various stakeholders and sectors, such as the private sector, civil society, media, academia, and development partners, to create a collaborative and participatory platform for sanitation.

The mission also needs to align itself with the global and national goals and commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the National Clean Air Programme, and the Jal Jeevan Mission, to create synergies and co-benefits for the people and the planet.

The Swachh Bharat Mission is not just a government programme, but a people’s movement. It is a collective responsibility and a national duty to ensure that every citizen of India has access to safe and dignified sanitation. It is also a tribute and a homage to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who envisioned a clean and self-reliant India. As he said, “Sanitation is more important than independence”. Let us all join hands and work together to make his dream a reality.

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