"Sanitation is more important than Independence"
"We shall not defeat any of the infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation, and basic health care"
Above quotes clearly describes the importance of sanitation to human kind. India an aspirant to become a developed nation loses more than 6% of its GDP due to inadequate sanitation. To address this impact, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2nd October 2014, the Prime minister of India Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission. The mission aims to provide the access for every person to sanitation facilities and to achieve the open defecation free India. The action plan had prepared to achieve the ambitious goal by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. From that moment, India has been chasing its dream to achieve the open defecation free India by 2019.
The dream of open defecation free India has been gradually evolving as social mission. To accomplish such social mission, it needs the institutional initiatives and behavioral changes. The institutional initiatives should come from the government side while behavioral changes from the people's side. Government of India has accelerated the construction of individual, cluster and community toilets and the development of liquid and solid management drive through various schemes and PPP projects. Government initiatives includes the coordination and convergence of all ministries, centre and state schemes, international assistance for the implementation (One such example is convergence of MNREGA and Indira Awas Yojana to construct household toilets in the backward region), the diversion of corporate social responsibility fund for the rural sanitation works and annual sanitation survey to understand the ground reality. According to government estimates, the proposed steps will increase the number of toilets per day constructed from 14000 to 48000. By simply comparing this numbers, it may seem that India is in right path to achieve the target. But the surveys show the different picture. Swachh Survekshan Report 2017, Ministry of Urban Development highlighted that out of 500 surveyed, 118 cities have been found to be open defecation free. When many cities are in Non ODF status list by now, is it possible to achieve 100% open defecation free India by 2019?
Simultaneous initiatives from government and from people are needed to say 'Mission Accomplished' but behavioral changes from the people side are still lacking. This is the main impediment to achieve open defecation free status even through there is some loop holes in implementation of government schemes. If behavioral changes happened, People will either persuade the government to frame the meaningful schemes or pledge themselves not to defecate openly. Lack of education about the sanitation and existence of superstitious notion are the main hurdles for the behavioral change. The government launched the massive media campaign at National level and State level with the involvement of celebrities and School as well as college students to bring the behavioral change and to promote the sanitary awareness. Movies like 'Ek Toilet Prem Katha' show the importance of sanitation and made an attempt to bring behavioral change in the citizens' mindset. Despite of these attempts, why do still people defecate along railway tracks, river lines and water bodies? The problems faced to accomplish the mission in rural and urban areas are different. The benefits of government initiatives and media campaign were overshadowed by harm effects of superstitious notion in rural areas while by the lack of solid and liquid waste management initiatives in urban areas (in particularly slum areas). Since current campaigns are designed only to address the lack of awareness among the people regards the sanitation, campaigns to address the superstitious notion should be designed and also co-ordination with religious preachers are needed to address this irrational believes. In urban areas, Local bodies such as Municipalities and corporations have to prompt to do projects to promote the pipeline and water connections, to address the solid management problems. Another main problem faced by people both from rural and urban areas is problems associated with funds. Fund related problems can be solved by arresting the leakage in the delivery mechanism through direct transfer methods, providing small amount interest free loans to construct toilets, decentralizing the implementation works with the involvement of local bodies.
Currently India is in the right path to achieve the open defecation free status. Now a days, this mission has been seen as social mission than as government scheme. There are some concerns regarding speed of implementation. If the above stated concerns are addressed through the effective action, India will definitely become Open defecation free country by 2019 or in the near future.
- Muruga Nagaraj