GS Mains Model Question & Answer: On the eve of second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) assess the performance of the flagship campaign in meeting its objectives


GS Mains Model Question & Answer: On the eve of second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) assess the performance of the flagship campaign in meeting its objectives.


Q. On the eve of second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) assess the performance of the flagship campaign in meeting its objectives. (12.5 Marks)

(General Studies Mains Paper III – Environment : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment)

Model Answer :

Second anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Mission

October 2 marks the second anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Announcing a goal of eliminating open defecation by 2019 was a great idea, but now that we are 40 per cent through India’s flagship sanitation campaign, it is a good time to assess how much progress the SBM has made.

Data and Survey Methodology not credible

Unfortunately, it is impossible to answer this question because the data simply do not exist.

Although the Swachh Survekshan Report, released recently by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, presents statistics claiming to report latrine use, the survey methodology is not credible.

Surveyors did not ask a question that makes respondents feel comfortable saying they defecate in the open, and they did not ask about the behaviour of each individual in the household. Despite the provision of a periodic latrine use survey in the SBM policy guidelines, we are no closer to understanding how many people defecate in the open. In the absence of this data, what can be used to measure progress?

Accountability Initiative

Accountability Initiative recently released a budget brief tracking SBM allocations and expenditures. They find that from fiscal year 2014-2015, when the SBM started, to fiscal year 2016-2017, allocations to SBM more than tripled.

Sadly, most of it is going towards latrine construction, and very little towards information, education, and communication (IEC), the headline for behaviour-change activities. The fraction of spending on IEC has actually fallen since the SBM started, from three per cent of total expenditure in 2014-2015 to one per cent in 2015-2016. This is troublesome given the reasons open defecation persists in rural India.

Untouchability

It is now well known that “untouchability” plays an important role in explaining open defecation. Several studies have found that many rural Indians associate emptying a latrine pit by hand with manual scavenging, work that Dalits have traditionally been compelled to do.

In light of this situation, rural Indians do not want to use the kinds of latrines that require periodic manual pit emptying, like those promoted by the Indian government. That many rural Indians do not want the kinds of latrines promoted by the government suggests that IEC would have to be a key part of promoting latrine use in rural India. Unfortunately, it appears that the little attention paid to IEC activities translates into very low awareness of the goals of the SBM.

Conclusion

At its current rate of progress, the SBM is unlikely to achieve the elimination of open defecation. There is need of change in people’s behaviour by tackling the casteism and norms of purity and pollution that cause open defecation to persist, this will save time, money and lives of many.

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