Swachh Bharat should lead to Swasth Bharat. Discuss the limitations of Swachh Bharat in building a healthy India. (15 Marks)

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Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) was an unprecedented nationwide initiative aimed to inspire the public to voluntarily clean public spaces as a service to the nation

Although, it has won applause globally for its goal of providing sanitation to all. Toilets in households in the countryside have increased. There is a deficit of about 28% as of October last year. The many States that were declared to be free of open defecation did not qualify for the status.

Following are the problems-

  • Toilet Coverage – The states which recorded better toilet coverage also had a lower share of households contributing to open defecation.
  • Sikkim, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, which had higher individual toilet coverage, fared best in terms of rural sanitation.
  • Odisha, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Telangana with less coverage were among the laggards.
  • Usage – 6% of households in India reported open defecation despite having toilets.
  • Access to Water –  It is important in determining toilet use. 63% of the households that defecated in the open reported having toilets without running water.
  • States with poor access to water in toilets have a higher share of households contributing to open defecation. e.g Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar
  • Budget – The government set aside Rs 9,000 crore for rural sanitation in the 2016-17 Union budget but this has been accompanied by declining funds for the National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
  • This is unlikely to help eradicate open defecation. 
  • Caste-based discrimination in the provision of water also seems to be responsible for low toilet usage.
  • Out of the 102 hand-pumps constructed in village in Rajasthan in the last 10 years, only two could be located in areas inhabited by lower-caste people.
  • With a regular toilet requiring at least 20-30 litres of water in a day for smooth functioning, even obtaining a few litres every day is a struggle in these areas.
  • Maintenance of toilets – It is critical to ensure usage.

If the goal of making India free from open defecation were to be achieved, attention would have to be paid to the following concerns:

  • Maintaining ODF status is important after a village, block or district is declared ODF. Generally, it so happens that once it is declared, there is no pressure on the district administration to do any activity because the goal has been achieved. Also, many persons would tend to return to the old practice of open defecation, said Nisheeth Kumar of Knowledge Links. To make ODF sustainable, monitoring / spot-checking is required for at least one year after ODF status is achieved.
  • Motivating volunteers to check the condition of sanitation, and offering them good incentives is necessary.
  • For behavioural change of the society, a trained workforce is needed that can trigger communities. This involves taking the community through a participatory process of self-analysis where people are informed about the ill effects of inadequate sanitation – how it can adversely affect human life if proper facilities are not used.
  • To address the issue of over/under-reporting of government set targets, verification of facts on the ground is extremely important, said Mr Surendra Singh.
  • Another problem is the presence of open ponds (water pools) in rural and semi-urban areas along road corridors. The ponds are used by people, livestock for various purposes. The poor quality of water in the ponds gives rise to diseases.
  • Despite a ban on manual scavenging, it continues at various places in the country, said Mr Subhash Gatade. Unofficial figures reveal the presence of 13 lakh manual scavengers; official figures are about two lakh. The Dalit community is mainly engaged in this work, and not much attention is being paid towards reforming their lives. At some places, scheduled caste students are forced to clean toilets in schools. Technology can play a key role in addressing this issue, however, it is not being used at most places.
  • The working conditions of sewer workers are dangerous and hazardous. Every year about 22,000 workers die while cleaning sewers.
  • Governance practices showing good results should be identified, documented and replicated.
  • Equity in planning is needed. There are big pockets inhabited by SC, ST communities (living in forests and are hard to reach) that are often left behind due to planning deficiencies. Besides, many persons are also left behind from among the beneficiary community. UNICEF is trying to identify such groups so that these have access to adequate sanitation.
  • Proper facilities for disposal of excreta should be created. People begin to use toilets but the faecal material goes untreated which harms the environment.
  • Other usage-related challenges include: tackling cultural and mind-set issues, providing water in rural areas, addressing the problem of small and dingy toilets, stigma associated with pit-emptying, and making-men use toilets.

 

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