Swachh Bharat Mission: Enabling Environment

Government of India takes stock on Swachh Bharat Mission; Emphasizes on behavior change to eliminate open defecation from India by 2019

By Amit Sengupta

Swachh Bharat Mission_National Review meeting_CLTS Foundation_3 Feb

New Delhi: The Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Govt. of India, Mr. Chaudhary Birender Singhtaking stock on Swachh Bharat Mission said that SBM is not only about construction of toilets but also about behavior change. He said that India has to learn from Bangladesh while tackling open defecation in the country. The Union Minister said this while speaking at the National Review Meeting of ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ (Rural Sanitation)at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on 3 February, 2016.

Mr. Chaudhary Birender Singh, Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Govt. of India while lauding the efforts by the stakeholders and state governments on Swachh Bharat Mission said: “We have successfully completed more than one year of Swachh Bharat Mission and moved a step further towards achieving universal sanitation coverage and eliminating open defecation in India by 2019. Sanitation has witnessed a spurt and more than 143,00,000 rural households have gained access to satisfactory level of improved sanitation facilities.”

Stating that over 40,000 villages in India have declared themselves as ODF, the minister gave reference to the recently held SACOSAN VI conference at Dhaka, Bangladesh (11-13 January, 2016; CLTS Foundation was part of the Govt. of India delegation at SACOSAN VI in Dhaka). The Union Minister said: “Bangladesh has reduced their OD rate to less than 1 percent. They have done this by following the community approach for bringing in behavior change. Let us also, therefore, remind ourselves that Swachh Bharat Mission is a programme of involving communities into changing their behavior, and not merely a programme of toilet construction.”

During the national conference which was attended by 12 State Ministers of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched a mobile app during the conference called ‘mRWS App’. This android based app is available free for download at Google’s Play Store.

Mr. Ram Kripal Yadav, Minister of State, MDWS said at the conference: “Our ministry is working towards meeting the Prime Minister’s target of not even living a single household without toilet and OD. Some states are doing good work while rest needs to pad up fast. We are working to fulfill the target of reaching out to every single household with drinking water by 2022 (Water for All by 2022).” Talking about Swacch Bharat Mission, the minster said that there are lot of toilets which are lying defunct. It’s a mindset change that has to happen. Our ministry is doing large scale campaigns to increase awareness and bring collective change, he further added.

Earlier in the day, welcoming the delegates and giving a brief outline of the programme schedule, Mr. Nipun Vinayak, Director, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India said in his opening remark: “Sikkim is on its way to become a fully ODF state. Verification is going on in Sikkim. We have also examples of pockets of ODF regions from Rajasthan and West Bengal.”

In his presentation on ‘Status of Rural Sanitation in the States / UTs of India, Mr. Vinayak said: “Some states with high percentage of access to sanitation need not wait till 2019 in becoming a fully ODF state.  We need dramatic improvements in terms of access to sanitation in states like Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir to come out of the vicious circle of falling back to the trap of OD states.”

The director reiterated in his speech: “We have to keep the ‘toilet’ out of consideration while evaluation of an ODF village. There is ample flexibility given to the States and UTs. The state governments need to introspect if their respective district administration needs adequate flexibility while implementation of the Swacch Bharat Mission programme. There has to be a balance on the need to be restrictive and applying innovation.”

ODF is a sustainable index. State has to take their own decision. We have to emphasise on community approaches especially for North Indian states which is not doing too good in terms of access to sanitation coverage,” he further added.

Talking about the upcoming World Bank’s 1.5 Billion USD project, the director mentioned: “The World Bank’s proposal has been sent to the Cabinet for their approval. The project will roll out this year. The entire money that would be allocated to the states/UTs will be on the basis of incentives, that would be based on certain parameters. These parameters would be specifically – 1) Reduction of Open Defecation at household level 2) How many of your population is ODF as a collective effort.” These parameters would consist the Index for the Baseline, he said. These will be verified by an annual third party sample survey. He further added that if the state / UT administration needs capacity building they can approach UNICEF which has a customized training module for officials.

Dr. Geetha, Mission Director, SBM, Govt. of Chhattisgarh in her presentation stated that they are implementing the mission with CLTS approach.  They are expected to facilitate their 10971 gram panchayats towards ODF. “ODF Status is an enabling factor for development. 936 villages are verified as ODF in our state. However, the status of about 10 lakhs dysfunctional toilets is a huge challenge. We are thinking of the concept of sustainable toilets and ODF Festival,” Dr. Geetha said.

 In the next few hours in the day long conference, states of Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh (Harda and Indore Districts), West Bengal (Nadia), Tamil Nadu (Madurai), Rajasthan (Districts of Jalore and Bikaner), Jharkhand (Hazaribagh), Punjab, Manipur and Karnataka presented their status and progress on ‘coverage of rural sanitation’. While Sikkim mentioned that they have fulfilled the target of construction of toilets, currently they are witnessing verification of OD. They are focusing on behaviourial change, garbage and solid waste management. They need funds for IEC campaigns, the official said.

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