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The key problem with the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is that the government is primarily focussed on promotions and events of the scheme rather than its implementation.
Economics of Investing in Swacch Bharat
- The lack of sanitation is the leading cause of diarrhea among children under five, leading to stunting among children and also results in several preventable child deaths.
- A survey by World Bank has reported that due to lack of sanitation mental and physical development of 40% children are affected. Thus we are unable to leverage on the dividend of our human resource.
- The survey of World Bank also says that there is a loss of 6% GDP due to lack of sanitation.
- According to a study by UNICEF, every household in the villages that are free from Open Defecation saves INR 50,000 per year. These savings are from out of the pocket expenses of the medicines and opportunity cost of time along with the increase in the longevity.
- Business sense in Integrated Solid Waste Management.
- The costs of public health crises are far greater than the price of fixing it. That is why Swachh Bharat must power on, its efficacy sharpened by regular impact assessment studies and the learning they provide.
Sanitation is also critical for the safety and dignity of women. With India making massive strides towards becoming an economic superpower, ending the practice of open defecation is absolutely imperative.
Official Narrative about the progress
- After the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), a lot of momentum has been built up and significant progress has been made.
- The Mission is slowly transforming into a Jan Andolan, as was envisaged by the Prime Minister when he first spoke about it from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
- The SBM is not a toilet construction programme but a behavior change mass movement.
- Since the launch of the programme in October 2014, the sanitation coverage in rural India has gone up from 42 percent to over 63 percent.
- The number of people defecating in the open in rural India has come down from about 550 million to about 300 million
- 190,000 villages, 130 districts, and three states have become open defecation free (ODF). The programme is now well on track to achieve an ODF India by October 2, 2019.
- An estimated Rs 5000 crores have been earmarked for Swachhta-related activities by all Ministries in 2017-18. Cleaning up of iconic places, such as the Golden Temple and Tirupati Temple, to international standards and of the gram panchayats along the Ganga are other examples of Swachhta being mainstreamed in other sectors and spaces
1. Marketing rather than implementation:
- The key problem with the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is that the government is primarily focussed on promotions and events of the scheme rather than its implementation.
- Duplicate entries, ghost beneficiaries, and missing households were the first stumbling blocks in SBM, as pointed out by researchers from the Accountability Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research in a study conducted in December 2015.
- The study tracked beneficiaries across 7,500 households in 10 districts and five States. This made even the World Bank jittery, which is why it downgraded the project and refused to release the first installment of a $1.5 billion loan. The overall ratings have gone down on three parameters in the World Bank report dated February 2, 2017: progress towards achievement of programme development objectives from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘moderately satisfactory’; overall implementation progress from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘moderately unsatisfactory’; and overall risk rating from ‘nil’ to ‘substantial’.
- The focus of the SBM-Grameen (the rural component of the SBM) should be on behavioral change; the guidelines also require that 8% of the funds be allocated for information, education and communication activities. But during 2016-17, up to January 2017, only 1% of the total expenditure had been made on information, education, and communication. Where did the rest of the money go? Blown away in self-praise ads by the Prime Minister?
2. Elements of coercion:
- Under pressure to meet SBM targets, in many states, Public functionaries have failed to provide the human touch that is necessary for any endeavor to induce behavioral change. The Ranchi Municipal Commissioner, Shantanu Agrahari, for example, is of the view: “Public ostracism is often a good deterrence. The results show that these initiatives are helping to check the number of those who defecate in the open.” There are many such examples from states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
- On paper, the SBM is premised on the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach which hinges on creating information networks to bring about behavior change. The approach recognizes that demand for toilets be generated from the bottom up, and that change be driven and sustained by the community itself once it has been “triggered”. The SBM’s guidelines also state that coercion is against the mission’s spirit.
- Threatening people may ensure their participation in the Mission in the short term and even compliance with the campaign’s immediate targets. But such means are unlikely to induce sustainable behavioral change
- People are not using toilets because they neither have access nor the capacity to use one. You cannot organize campaigns to shame them. If your priority is the poor, let them choose what they want. The Constitution says the state cannot interfere in people’s lives. But by appointing whistle-blowers who shame those who do not use toilets, the state is terrorizing people.
3. More than toilet construction
- Building toilets and creating infrastructure has not proved to be enough to make people use them. Naming and shaming have met with limited success to change preferences here. In the absence of social disincentives with everyone indulging in the same behavior, and the practice being a collective habit perfected over the years, something more than building toilets (mostly without water supply) needs to be done here.
4. Caste Link
- In India, there is an inexorable link between occupation and caste; the occupation of manual scavenging is linked with caste. We have to break the link between caste and occupation before we set out to achieve Swachh Bharat.
- It cannot be achieved by preaching ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’. You have made certain communities from particular castes clean the country. If that were not the case, why is it that for the last 4,000 years, the same communities are cleaning the countryside? Without breaking the chain, those who make Bharat swachh will never be a part of the campaign. You will be projecting an illusion and to promote that, you will conceive of campaigns where the success of the illusion will depend on how well you promote it.
- The Prime Minister has already missed the target before he set out to achieve the goal. He has to come out openly and say that caste is the root cause of the problem he wishes to annihilate. He has to say that despite the Constitution declaring the abolition of untouchability in Article 17, it is still practiced by perpetuating occupations such as scavenging. The cause has not been made clear by the Prime Minister.
- Cleaning India is not a spiritual experience and he should not glorify it. In the Indian context, manual scavenging is a misery, drudgery, so one cannot worship it. Can a manual scavenger worship his occupation by cleaning someone’s faeces? One has to begin by recasting society and its target, reconstructing society first by breaking the links between occupation castes. Slogans like ‘Clean-up India’ are an illusion.
Analysis By – Wakeman Neutron