The Swacch Bharat Movement: A Jan Andolan – Sushri Uma Bharti
How would you define the last 48 months of transforming India under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi with regards to scales, speed and innovation?
The Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) is the largest behaviour change program in the world. It was an unprecedented clarion call for a janandolan given by the Hon’blePrime Minister, and has set India on an incredible journey. The journey today is no less than a sanitation revolution, with the largest janandolan this country has witnessed in years. Today, sanitation is truly everybody’s business, with behaviour change taking places across societies and communities. Every village is presenting their own grassroots champions with women, children and youth taking the lead and placingSwachhatasquarely at the front for the development agenda.
Looking back at the last 48 months, in terms of scale, SBM inherited the legacy of previous sanitation programs of India, which rested their focus on constructing toilets. From a situation which began with 55 crore individuals defecating in the open in 2014, has now been reduced to less that 20 crores under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
The first change that we ushered in right after the launch of the Mission was to shift gears this output-driven model to an outcome-driven one. This meant that we are not in the business of simply counting toilets, but in the business of making villages free from open defecation. Yes, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) has led to the construction of over 7.22 crore individual household toilets in rural India, but what is more important to the government is the outcome, which is that the behaviour change under Swachh Bharat has led to over 3.63 lakh villages, 385 districts and 17 States and Union Territories declaring themselves as ODF. This does not merely mean that every person in these places has a toilet, but that every individual uses a toilet too. This focus on behaviour change under the Swachh Bharat Mission is unprecedented in the era before these 48 months.
To put this in terms of speed and scale, when the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) was launched in October 2014, the rural sanitation coverage of the country was 39% and today we are witnessing a coverage of over 83%. This is to say that the sanitation coverage in the last 48 months is more than double of the coverage achieved in the last 67 years of Independence!
When we speak of innovation under the Swachh Bharat Mission, a critical component of the program is the twin-pit toilet – the safest toilet technology most suited to large parts of rural India. It is scientifically proven that the waste in a twin pit toilet becomes safe-to-handle compost within a year, and is rich in NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) nutrients which makes it ideal for use in agriculture. In many parts of India, this is also known as sonakhaad (golden fertiliser) because of its effect on increasing crop yield.
Walking in tandem with sanitation, the Ministry has placed a steady focus on improving drinking water supply in rural India. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and its National Water Quality Sub Mission (NWQSM) are supporting SBM(G) as the Ministry is moving rapidly towards achieving Goal – 6 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, envisioning safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, 10 years ahead of schedule.
What are the most impactful initiatives and schemes of the Ministry led by you?
With an aim to provide safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all, collective efforts are being made by States and are supplemented by the programs being implemented by my Ministry – the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. These are –the Swachh Bharat Mission and the National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
Both of these are multifaceted programmes, working on various fronts for holistic impact. The Swachh Bharat Mission, in addition to eliminating open defecation, also places great importance on Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM), Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources (GOBARDhan), Menstrual Hygiene Management and cleanliness at iconic places (Swachh Iconic Places), among others.
Additionally, what makes these schemes a success are the massive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns and events the Ministry organises simultaneously. With the involvement of crores of individuals form across the country, MDWS has rolled out Swachhata Hi Sewa, Swachh Sankalp se Swachh Siddhi and Swachh Shakti in the last two years. Even more recently, the culmination of the 100th year celebrations of Bapu’s Satyagraha, witnessed a culmination of approximately 20,000 swachhagrahis, our boots on the grounds, as they triggered Bihar in week and concluded the event in Champaran with a tremendous event, which was presided by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
The National Rural Drinking Water Programme has shown steady progress and has been able to increase drinking water supply from 68% in 2013 to 78% as of May 2018. The programme addresses the problem of chemical contamination of groundwater sources in some States, especially Arsenic and Fluoride contamination, under the National Water Quality Sub Mission, which aims to cover over 28,000 habitations across several States of the country. We have recently also launch Swajal – a community approach to sanitation, in March this year with two pilots (Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, and Karauli, Rajasthan) already in play.
A substantial success between the two, MDWS prioritises villages along the Ganga, under NamamiGange, with all 4,465 villages having been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF).
How would you measure the success of these initiatives?
The Ministry boasts of two robust and comprehensive Management Information Systems (MIS) for both programmes respectively, which record progress and achievement under all identified quantifiable parameters. The compilation of the data is supported further by multiple levels of verification, spread across time for monitoring purposes and to encourage sustainability.
Importantly, the progress figures on our MIS are corroborated by third-party verifications and surveys from time to time. For instance, a recent survey conducted by an Independent Verification Agency across 90,000 households in over 6000 villages has found the rural toilet coverage to be 77% and the usage of these toilets to be 93.4%. Two independent surveys conducted in the past by the Quality Council of India in 2017, and National Sample Survey Organization in 2016, have pegged the usage of these toilets at 91% and 95% respectively.
Another measure of the success of our initiatives is the janandolan created in the last 48 months, with efforts made at all levels. One reflection of the same was the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ (SHS) fortnight, which was celebrated in September 2017 in the run-up to the third anniversary of the SBM. Over 9 crore individuals came together, with citizens, political leaders, government officials and students alike, celebrating the fortnight as they undertook shramdaan for Swachhata, SwachhataShapaths, and screened films.
When you assumed office, what were the key challenges faced in the sector relevant to the Ministry. How did you overcome those challenges and achieve the goal of last minute delivery of governance?
I joined MDWS in September 2017, and while the sanitation sector is a very challenging one in the Indian context, in terms of governance as well as behaviour change, by the time I assumed office, my predecessors had already set the ball rolling.
At a macro level, the dire condition inherited by the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) in October 2014was reflected in the fact that an approximate of 55 crore rural Indians were defecating in the open while 1.4 crore toilets built under previous programmes had fallen into disrepair and become defunct. In the last 48 months, these numbers have reduced to 20crores and 32.5 lakhs, respectively, in May 2018.
A key path for the Swachh Bharat Mission is sustaining all the progress. This is being done using multiple fronts such as the deployment of Swachhagrahis – our grassroots motivators, providing sustainability funds, flexible guidelines, sustainability workshops, etc.
The primary reason for this success has undeniably been the leadership provided by the Hon’ble Prime Minister from the front. The Prime Minister personally champions sanitation at every national and international forum possible and his seriousness and passion for a Swachh Bharat percolates across levels in the Central and State governments.
You must have met many citizens across the country who have largely benefitted from the initiatives taken up by the ministry. Could you detail some memorable experience and untold stories shared by citizens?
I am fortunate to be a part of this mass movement where we are constantly hearing of amazing stories from across the country. Just recently, our Hon’ble PM shared the story of 87 year old Rakkhi from Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir, who recognised the need for safe sanitation. Despite her age, she decided to literally take matters in her own hands and constructed her toilet herself.
One of the most memorable stories I heard was that of Suresh Shah, a visually challenged resident of Etah district, Uttar Pradesh, who lived with his adopted son. When his son got married to a daughter of a Gujarati family, he recognised how uncomfortable and tough it was for his new daughter-in-law to manage without a toilet. Despite his limited means, Suresh sold off his two goats and bought the material to construct a toilet for all of them to use. When the local MLA of Etah heard about Suresh, he purchased his goats back and gifted them to Suresh in a ceremony organized in the latter’s honour.
Another exciting story is that of the Gulabi Gang in Korambeis village, Jharkhand, who practice morning nigraniwearing pink sarees as they attempt to fight the menace of open defecation. When the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) was launched, the district administration facilitated the formation of the Gulabi Gang. Their role is to create awareness about safe sanitation practices, the need to use toilets, mobilise the community through door to door visits and community meetings.Significantly, as a result of these activities the entire community constructed their toilets all by themselves. At present, not even a single person from this community practices open defecation.
This is just a small glimpse of the massive janandolan underway in our country today right from the highest office to the grassroots. The Swachh Bharat Mission is on track to achieve an ODF India by the 150th birth anniversary of Bapu, and we have only the people of India to credit for this.