Sanitation has become a very important issue. The government launched Swachh Sarvekshan in August 2017 which targets surveying 500 Indian cities on basis of sanitation. It is an attempt by the central government to assess the progress through such surveys and also incentivise the actors by giving awards to the cities which are performing better. There are welfare associations, corporate sector and also the workers at the grassroots level who have to create mobilisation and change in mindset of the people. Earlier, the survey was restricted to only 73 cities, now the canvass has been increased and grounds are being prepared for creating a competitive spirit.
Participation and Ownership is key
In India, there is no city identity. There is no association with a city like it is with language, religion, caste etc. If such kind of awareness building takes place, it is possible that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is made successful. One of the major deficiencies in the programme was that that the governmental programmes and administrative machinery can only go to a certain extent. Hence, there has to be community involvement and commitment from people at the grassroots level. The government has now realised that unless it engages the people into the programme, the success would be limited.
PM said that safe drinking water is equally important as a preventive health measure. The PM has talked about participatory governance where the people have to participate in the programme, rear maximum benefits and make it successful. The people and the opposition parties as well have the responsibility of creating right kind of environment which persuades the government to fulfil its commitment.
Numbers are not sufficient
As per Union Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty, 21 lakh toilets have been built in 2015-16 and target is to build 21 lakh more toilets in 2016-17. By 2019, over 1 crore toilets have to be built.
However, success of mission is not dependent only on technology and the physical capacity to produce these assets. It depends on the utilisation and maintenance. The social aspect and behavioural aspect are extremely important along with constructing desired number of units. In the context of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, there are different components and the government is also setting up a technological establishment to ensure that there is no hurdle technologically. In these components, social engineering is extremely important. It will the communities’ duty to maintain the toilets.
The Sarvekshan is not only about ranking the cities and identifying the best performing actors and agencies. It is going to be used for monitoring, validation of the government results through the communities’ feedback and resource allocation for next round. The data garnered from communities should be verified with government targets and claims which would make it possible to asses if the programme is moving forward in right direction. If the community says there are toilets but no water, the government can be confronted on that basis with its statistics and take corrective measures immediately.
Open defecation elimination
It is the target of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The government have to make sure that all the towns and villages are free from open defecation. It is a very challenging job. Hence, toilet construction is not important but the behavioural change is what has to be targeted.
The percentage of households having drinking water facility in the urban areas from taps and bottles have gone down between 2007-2013. This is worrying as people dependent on safe drinking water has gone down. It is a major area of concern as it is related with health facilities. There has to be monitoring of actual success and delivery. Thus, along with technological submission, there has to be social engineering submission which will bridge the frictions that exist between government and community.
Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala will be open defecation free by March 2017. These three states have managed to do something which is a dream for northern India. The reason is the
- Socio economic condition of these three states are different from the average of the country. The north-south divide emerges clearly in terms of number of indicators.
- These states have lower level of poverty compared to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh etc. Higher incidence of poverty means lower affordability for these facilities.
- Also, the climatic conditions are different. The rate of utilisation of closed door toilet is different because of environmental condition.
- Gap in literacy levels
With some economic growth coming into the backwards states of north and central parts, the modernisation coming up in certain way will reduce the gap between less developed and more developed states in 5-7 years.
Role of education and awareness campaigns
As far as health and sanitation is concerned, education has a major role to play. But more importantly, education coming through other informal channels like media, newspapers put forward the idea that personal hygiene is not just a personal matter because it affects the neighbour too.
Many of poor households do not have affordability to have proper and appropriate sanitation facilities. But they have to be told that their health expenditure is high because of lack of sanitation facilities and unclean drinking water. This knowledge has to be communicated.
The priority for personal toilet is yet not high. But the social priority for health and hygiene for the community’s welfare is much higher.
Starting hygiene education at primary or school level will go a long way. The children are great messengers for family and elderly people. Once they tell parents how to maintain sanitation and cleanliness, it has a desired impact than some third-party preaching.
Besides this, the advertisement have to be interactive and intelligent where the people understand the message clearly.
Involving celebrities who have an acceptable personality in society is also a good idea as in rural areas, people adore and like to do what their favourite TV and movie stars say and do. Local folk artists and sharing cleanliness stories through their dance, music will also help. The civil society organisations have designed extremely intelligent programmes taking cue from culture, stories from villages and passing information in a very subtle manner. Combining healthy entertainment with a social message will go a long way.