Swacch Bharat Abhiyan – From Elucidation to Implementation

Comparing cleanliness to godliness, cleanliness was articulated by Mahatma Gandhi. He stressed upon cleanliness as an imperative step to attain social health and ideal lifestyle.In Yoga treatises also, Shoucha is mentioned as a subcomponent of Ashtanga Yoga, as a prerequisite to achieving Santosha (contentment) and holistic health. Despite all such classical directives, societal overlook and unawareness make sanitation a grave concern for India in both rural as well as urban settings.

The flagship sanitation program launched by the Indian government in 2014 recently completed three years and its romp performance was analyzed recently. Swacch Bharat Abhiyan is not a new program, launched in 1986 as the central rural sanitation program, it has undergone various avatars. Recently, even the Bollywood industry capitalized on the concept by producing a movie- Toilet Ek Prem Katha. Open defecation and poor sanitation are major hurdles in India’s roadmap to success. India loses about 6.4% its GDP on water and sanitation-related diseases. The sanitation drive aims at open defecation free India by 2019. The idea is to eradicate open defecation by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs.1.96 lakh crore.

The program has witnessed an increase from 39%- 69% of open defecation free area. Kerala, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh have been declared as ODF Zones.However, SBM seems to be inheriting some of the same predicaments that its predecessor programs faced.  Launched with a great show of fanfare, enthusiasm, and symbolism, with massive support of media, Bollywood celebrities, and sports icons, the campaign has been facing formidable financial and implementation challenges.

The most pressing question of the hour is, however, are the toilets built under the program being used regularly. Countrymen complain that lack of water and proper sewerage facilities come in the way of their willingness to use the toilets built. Moreover, sanitation is a four-step process and should focus equally on the sewerage facilities, waste treatment, and disposal. Successful completion of these four steps would ensure a better India. The drive has witnessed the pantheons of politicians coming down to streets for selfies rather than efforts to bolster the people responsible for cleaning the streets and sewage pits. Overemphasis on the building of toilets should be accompanied by maintaining their functionality. Impediments in the sanitation efforts such as lack of water supply, lack of awareness and poor drainage system should also be checked.

The focus must be on changing societal notions, mind-sets of the people instead of creating infrastructure. The awareness must also be imparted at the school level to change the habits of open defecation, urinating, littering in public.

In India, the rich man is too arrogant and the poor man is too ignorant. Who is going to listen to the government’s long country marathon?

I believe that all roads to Swachh Bharat pass through the thicket of reforms. In spite of failures, SBM presently needs a dose of optimism.

Collective efforts are needed to achieve great objectives and such a large nation cannot be made spotless in a year, it takes time. Rather it is a constant process of communicating, inspiring and educating the people for a mass participation in the same. We all want a changed India. We all want a clean India. We talk about it. We criticize the system, the government, the friend who peed in public, the aunt next door who throws her garbage on the road from her balcony, the Supreme Court and what not. We cringe.

So, the challenging chore to every citizen is: Can we rise to the occasion? Can we actually stop to pick up and clean up our own mess, instead of expecting someone else to do our dirty work for us? Can we put our individual ideologies and biases aside for a cause that no right-thinking person can quarrel with? The ministers also must increase above the mere photo opportunities or tokenism and start doing things in reality. Then, only we can hope for a “Clean India.” We as a citizen should understand that cleanliness is not only a virtue but it’s a responsibility as a human and it is imperative for us to come forward and make SBM successful and fulfilGandhi’s dream of clean India. Hopefully, we will see a better tomorrow!

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