By: Professor V. Srinivas Chary
Remember the ‘Panchayat 2’ episode when the DM visits Phulera village to check its ODF (Open Defecation Free) status. How Panchayat employees go into overdrive to protect the ODF status. This reel-life drama reflects real-life events across over 4400 urban areas and lakhs of villages in India.
Swachh Bharat has crept into our jargon to the extent that it has become an intrinsic part of our daily life. Villagers and towns’ quest for toilets is for real. Open defecation is no longer acceptable. It is taboo. We have watched how Akshay Kumar’s reel-life wife in `Tiolet-Ek Prem Katha’ leaves him to maintain her dignity.
This craving for cleanliness and hygiene was always ignored. Come October 2, 2014, the Modi government decided to take bull by the horns. And Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was born.
Before the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-U), public health, environmental quality, and the dignity of women was compromised. Several problems related to open defecation, manual scavenging, and even women’s safety were the cause of concern.
SBM-U brought phenomenal changes and transformed India in just eight years. On the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, SBM-U became a movement. Eight years on, SBM-U is one of the most successful programs in the country.
Under the SBM-U, building toilets in every household and locality, desludging, faecal sludge treatment, and wet and solid waste management were taken up.SBM-U took the concept of Swachhata to every citizen in the nook and corner of the country, irrespective of their age, religion, political affiliation, income background, etc. The project is phenomenal, considering the scale. Almost all states adopted the mission and started working towards achieving the goals.
Official figures reveal that 4317 cities were certified as ODF. This means people residing in these areas have access to toilet facilities. Likewise, 3354 cities were certified ODF+. It means ODF and functionality of community and public toilets. 964 cities were certified ODF++. It means cities are ODF and have a faecal sludge management system. Under SBM – U, 66.9 lakh household toilets and 6.42 lakh toilets have been built.
It is the first of its kind initiative where all the government departments were brought under the same roof. Swachhata has become a mainstream concept in almost all government departments.
Healthy competition is always good. SBM created positive competition among states for performance improvement. Not just municipal authorities but even political leaders, irrespective of their ideologies, took part and promoted the program.
To sustain the outcomes achieved under SBM-U and take it to scale, on October 1, 2021, Prime Minister launched Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban 2.0, with the overall vision of creating `Garbage Free Cities’. The purpose is to sustain the initiatives that had begun, to be continued without interruption, till the final intended outcomes and impact have been achieved.
Under SBM-U 2.0, all households and premises segregate their waste into `wet waste’ (from kitchen and gardens) and `dry waste’ (including paper, glass, plastic, and domestic hazardous waste and sanitary waste wrapped separately).The programme entails 100% door-to-door collection of segregated waste from each household. It focuses on 100% scientific management of all fractions of waste, including safe disposal in a scientific landfill. All used water including faecal sludge, especially in smaller cities is safely contained, transported, processed, and disposed of so that no untreated faecal sludge and used water pollutes the ground or water bodies.
SBM-U 2.0 would also entail remediating 1,673 lakh metric tonnes of legacy wastes in dumpsites, creating C&D waste processing facilities with the capacity to handle 10,000 TPD waste.
SBM 2.0 has brought such unprecedented changes in the system that now even corporates and start-ups have also taken up the concept of Swachhata seriously. An entire start-up ecosystem has evolved that exclusively deals with garbage management, wastewater treatment, waste segregation, etc. This has in turn opened up several new economic opportunities. It would not be an exaggeration to draw parallels between the IT revolution that we saw in the 2000s and the sanitation and Swachhata revolution that is booming in the country now.
SBM 2.0 initiatives are playing a big role in the empowerment of women. There was a huge impact on girls. When toilets were built in schools, girls started attending classes regularly. Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) have also started working around Swachhata concepts.
Eight years on, Swachhata has become a household thing. By making it a Jan Andolan, the whole program has brought a behavioural change in the people. The mission is not just about making India garbage-free or improving environmental quality but essentially changing the attitude of the citizens in the long run.
SBM is not just one of the many successful people-orientated missions of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, but has become a revolutionary movement. This has brought about a human behavioural change in the current generation and Gen-X. It has received accolades internationally and will place India on a different bench, all together.
Writer is Director, Urban Water, Sanitation and Environment, Administrative Staff College of India