Innovation Technology Needed To Make Clean India Drive A Success Say Experts - BW Businessworld

– By Tanya Khantwal

Bharatiya Janata Party has become a moniker for the government itself. It’s unsurprising, honestly, with the role of the head of the machinery being embodied by the former Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in such a compelling manner. His image, not only countrywide but also worldwide, has emerged to be an arresting, demanding one. A strong case can be made that his multiple trips and rigorous statements in the international arena have acted as boosters for his external image. As for the internal aspect, that rests on a sturdy matrix of confidently delivered speeches and, most importantly, pure Hindi titled (coherent with the party’s staunch advocacy of everything ‘indegenous’), energetically promoted programs and schemes aimed at large scale and widespread amelioration and development. A multitude of such plans form the core of the eight year old Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

Under Narendra Modi, the saffron party made history by securing a 282 seats majority sans any coalition. Logically, the self proclaimed chowkidar donned the shoes of the head of the government on 26 May 2014. Expectations were high as the country’s employment generation was low, investment levels were dismal and the GDP kept taking a hit every year. An era of reforms and growth was much needed. Keeping this in mind, Modi drew the first arrow from his quiver.

Three months after his investiture, while giving his first speech at the Red Fort on the occasion of Independence Day, he announced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan – a nationwide drive to make the country cleaner and consequently healthier. It got its formal launch in Rajghat on 2nd October of the same year, the 145th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It was on the basis of the freedom leader’s espousal of primacy to be assigned to sanitation (over even independence) that the whole Swacchata program was founded upon – a more overt instance of Gandhi’s influence being displayed in the auxiliary Satyagraha se Swachhgraha campaign of 2018 in Bihar’s Champaran, the same place where the leader held his first ever Satyagraha. The launch of the program stated the aim of achieving an open defecation free India by 2019.

The plan was bifurcated into two parts- rural and urban. The former was placed under the administration of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation while the latter is looked after by the Ministry of Urban Development. A motley of schemes were initiated under these heads to upgrade hygiene in both arenas.

Urban area has always been a central concern in terms of sanitation. India, since its independence, has been trying to rectify the unsanitary conditions of its cities. The First Five Year Plan of the country announced in 1951 placed sanitation as its top priority. Till now, sanitation is something that the more developed parts of the country are struggling with. Therefore, an immense amount of attention was to be directed towards the towns. In the Urban component, the focus was on construction of pour flush toilets, solid waste management and achieving ODF status for all towns. The plan was to build individual toilets wherever possible and community latrines wherever needed. The latter were specifically required in high density areas like tourist destinations and markets. Over Rs 4000 crores were allocated for construction of individual household toilets while Rs 655 crores were to be spent on the community ones. Around Rs 1800 crores were set aside for the public awareness drive around their usage and promoting cleanliness.

Harking back to the past actions, the centrality of water supply in the case of sanitation comes to the fore. The Sixth Five Year Plan, undertaken from 1980, highlighted the need for proper water supply for attaining urban development. In consonance with this view, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was implemented in June 2015. This national water mission seeked to bring improvement in sewage treatment and universal providence of drinking water, aiding the hygienic objective of Swachh Bharat Mission. 78 lakhs of sewer connections have been established under this scheme.

Garbage disposal was developed under door-to-door garbage collection activities. This initiative has been evidently highly successful, with over 89 per cent of municipal wards across the country achieving complete door-to-door solid waste collection and disposal. The government claims that by 2019 alone, an estimated 600 million people have been provided access to toilets under SBM – though this statistic has been criticised as an overstatement. An innovative step has been taken in the digital arena. The government introduced SBM Toilets on Google Maps so that nearest sanitation facilities could be known of and thus accessed with ease. Over 65,000 toilets have been added on Maps which extend over 3300 cities. Another digital step has been the creation of the Swachhata application in 2016. This application acts as a complaint redressal medium. It has been highly successful, with attending to over 2 crore complaints from citizens.

By 2019, a lot had been achieved. The buzz around the initiative had been high throughout the half decade. So the plan was extended. On 1 October 2021, two years after the conclusion of the proposed time period for the first phase of the mission, a revised vision of a clean urban India was launched as Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 2.0 i.e. a continuation of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). This scheme comes under the control of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The principal aim of the scheme is to make all cities 100% ‘garbage free’. It also aims to ensure black water management and make urban local bodies ODF+ and ODF++, the latter being specifically reserved for bodies having population less than 1 lakh. There is also a renewed emphasis on the basic three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – so as to bring the waste levels down and to utilise scientific methods for processing of waste. The Prime Minister also launched the AMRUT 2.0 which aims toward achieving water security, supplementing the sanitation drive of SBM.

Concomitant to the launch of the 2.0 variation was the declaration of the month-long intensive Clean India Drive. The purpose of the drive was to promote ‘Clean India: Safe India’ through the advocacy of cleanliness and discouraging the utilisation of single-use plastic. It aimed to collect 75 lakh tonnes of waste, covering even important heritage sites, and integrating it into a Waste to Wealth model. Thus, there is collection of waste and its further transformation into something usable like energy. The Ministry also collaborated with National Highways Authority of India to use the plastic waste for road construction. Under this Drive, the use of single-use plastic was also banned from 1 July 2022.

One of the objectives of SBM is to get rid of manual scavenging. So, sanitation workers were also at the centre of the scheme. Their living conditions saw a marked change. On 19 November 2020 i.e. on World Toilet Day, Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge was also launched. This was specifically aimed at the sanitation workers. The Challenge encouraged mechanisation of sewer operations so as to prevent accidents and deaths of the workers who get caught up by entering dangerous zones. 100 Lighthouse Cities were recognised. This status indicated that these cities had done a good job of mechanising their cleaning operations and taking steps towards safeguarding their sanitation workers’ lives. The challenge also had under it the National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation which organised Loan Melas. These Melas were a way for the workers to avail loans under Swachhata Udyami Yojana for sewage mechanisation. There was focus on skill development of the workers as well, undertaken by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

The digital arena saw an upgrade too. The Swachhata application saw advancements and was revamped into Swachhata 2.0 which consisted of nine additional categories of complaints regarding the pandemic which had jailed everyone into a lockdown. A brilliant feature added to the app was the 360-degree feedback system. This feature made it mandatory to upload a photograph as proof of the complainant’s concern having been heard and subsequently resolved. In the first phase of the lockdown alone, the application was able to resolve 1.5 lakh complaints. It has garnered a resolution rate of 87% and an estimated 1.8 registered users.

Private participation was also looked after. In 2014, Bharat Kosh fund was launched. This fund was used to attract donations under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This allowed private and individual partaking. According to a 2020 report by the Toilet Board Coalition, the sanitation economy of India is supposed to reach about $148 billion by 2030. This potential has been indubitably built up, to a certain extent, by the efforts of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. The government has allocated Rs 1.41 crore for Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Urban) 2.0. The Mission has also created a wide open space to be occupied by private players in terms of advancing sanitation. Some private sector employment has already been seen. An interactive marketplace experience was constructed by the Ministry of Urban Development so that private players could browse and select their next investment venture out of projects in need of it.

The government also brought into existence the world’s largest urban cleanliness survey titled Swachh Survekshan in 2016. This survey nurtured an essential competitive spirit amongst the cities as it publishes a ranking list of clean cities and towns according to its findings. The participants thus try to improve themselves in these terms. The assessment is done by the Quality Council of India. The effect can be seen. Garbage-free cities have been given the 5-star tag. These are Surat, Mysuru, Bhopal, Navi Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Tirupati. Indore has earned the only 7-star certification, being titled the cleanest city in India.

As of 2022, all urban local bodies have also been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) and 70% of solid waste is now being processed scientifically through door-to-door collection and segregation. Under SBM(U), over 62 lakh individual toilets have been established since the commencement of the initiative. While this is an impressive number, it still falls short by 4 lakh from the original target. However, in the Phase 1 of the Urban component, the target set for the community latrines was 5 lakh which has been achieved, even exceeded by a lakh. The government claimed to have achieved the Open Defecation Free status for the entirety of Urban India by October 2019. But when looking at the 2021 statement by the joint monitoring programme on water, sanitation and hygiene by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, we see that one per cent of the urban population still defecates out in the open. Therefore, terming the urban areas as completely free of open defecation stands as an exaggeration. Some places still don’t have sufficient facilities, a recent example being the attention being brought to the massive city of Hyderabad only possessing a total of 360 toilets for its one crore population. The Standing Committee on Urban Development stated in 2020 that the toilets built under SBM had very poor quality, like the ones in East Delhi. Still, the Abhiyaan has managed to produce colossal progress. The Programme has also stated that India was responsible for the biggest drop in open defecation since 2015 “in terms of absolute numbers”. The most recent development in this case has been the launch of the Toilets 2.0 campaign by MoHUA Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri at Bengaluru on this year’s World Toilet Day.

A total of 35 states have been declared as ODF, attaining certification through even third party verification. As part of the waste to wealth initiative, almost 250 MT of plastic waste has been utilised to build 27,000 sq metre of road. This ensures that this plastic is prevented from entering our food chain. The aforementioned plastic ban is a crucial development in the SBM journey as India is its fifth highest generator in the world. However, this ban had weaknesses from the start. Not a lot could be expected from it as it covered only 2-3% of the country’s total plastic waste. Moreover, the banned plastic can still be found in circulation.

As for the Safaimitra project, we see advancement there as well. The number of manual scavengers has dropped from 7 lakh in 2008 to 42,000 in 2018. However, we do have to take these statistics with a grain of salt as these have been published by the government-owned NSKFDC. Despite the Delhi government claiming to have no manual scavengers, there have been 46 deaths of the same in the last five years. It is also to be noticed that the government only recognises manual scavenging deaths that took place in relation to dry latrines. Since 1993, there have been 971 deaths which involved sanitation workers cleaning sewer/septic tanks. The government has chosen to ignore these. This fact certainly brings into question the credibility of the statistics provided by the Centre.

There definitely have been some ups and downs regarding SBM (U). There have been drawbacks and failures, but they have been accompanied with many progressive changes. And some advancement is better than none of it. But that doesn’t mean that the government can just call it a day. There is always going to be room for development and betterment. It needs to sort through the intricacies and formulate a more thorough approach.

If Modi ji had been an artist, Swachh Bharat would have been titled as his magnum opus. Some might argue that the Make in India initiative is a strong contender for the title. And as much as I agree with the claim of these two fashioning a cheek to jowl walk in this kind of analysis, the popular talks and participation levels achieved by the earlier initiative are much more imprinted in the masses’ minds. The cleanliness campaign still pervades the Indian jargon when discussion over the saffron party unfolds. It has definitely aided the popularity of the Prime Minister. According to the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey published in August of this year, Modi’s popularity statistics surpass not only those of his contemporaries, but also those of who came before him – including the first Prime Minister of the country himself, Congress’ Jawaharlal Nehru. In terms of impact as well the campaign has given results. Eight years later, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan has proven to be a milestone in urban sanitation.


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