Sustaining ODF India


  • Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), about 10.28 crore households constructed individual household latrines (IHHL) during 2014-2019; making more than 600,000 villages across the country free from open defecation (ODF). In the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, about 1.96 crore households got access to IHHL under the SBM(G).
  • The Government of India intends to mobilise and empower almost 260,000 Gram Panchyats (GPs) across the country to be the stewards of the SBM(G)II strategy so that they emerge as the drivers of achieving universal access to safely managed sanitation, and sustaining ODF India. However, SBM(G)II interventions are more complex than the interventions of SBM(G) phase I, which focussed on construction of twin-pit IHHL and behaviour change communication through community led total sanitation approach. SBM(G) II needs different types of contextual technical solutions for retrofitting, as well as for solid and liquid waste management.
  • Further, solid waste management (SWM) involves series of processes commonly categorised as: segregation, collection, transportation, treatment, recycle or reuse (SWM chain). To have sustained operation, some committed sanitation workers are required to ensure that all the steps are operated and closely monitored. Sustained engagement of community groups is crucial; this implies a sustained and a critical role for media.

SBM(G) Phase I (2014-2019): Success Factors

  • The successful implementation of SBM (G) was driven by several factors. Among others political leadership, public finance, partnerships and people’s participation (4Ps) are cited to be at the center of its success.
  1. Political Leadership: The SBM (G) was part of the Prime Minister’s vision of making India ODF. In states such as UP, the Chief Ministers provided abled leadership of the SBM(G); close monitoring from the top level on a regular basis gave impetus to the planning and implementation of SBM(G) at the district and village levels.
  1. Public Finance: A consistent and massive scale, behaviour change communication and an incentive of Rs 12,000 per poor household for toilet construction were the critical aspects of SBM(G) strategy. The Centre and state governments have spent estimated US$ 24 billions on SBM(G).
  1. Partnerships: To achieve highly ambitious target, range of strategic partnerships were mobilised, amongst but not limited to the government ministries, development partners, media and influencers at all level.
  1. Peoples Participation and Community Mobilisation: Design of SBM(G) was informed by the lessons of previous sanitation programmes that changing a socially accepted practice of open defecation, would require focus on social and behaviour change communication, going beyond toilet construction. Community members were mobilised as motivators, nigrani samitis (vigilante/village committees), local champions, rani mistris (queen masons) etc. making SBM(G) a truly peoples movement rather than a government programme. 
  1. Strong Capacity Development Support from Partners: Making the SBM(G) a peoples movement required SBM(G) team with skills of participatory planning, community mobilisation, stakeholders coordination, and accountability system. Development partners such as UNICEF, World Bank, Tata Trusts and others supported the capacity development of SBM(G) team, immensely contributing towards desired focus on behaviour change communication. The story of Rita and Sadhana from Shrawasti district in the state of UP demonstrates how capacity building support by UNICEF has enabled and empowered adolescent girls to be the champions of sanitation movement in UP.
  1. Critical Role of Media: Mobilising stakeholders ranging from faith leaders, political cadres, bureaucrats and communities at large was made possible through active engagement of media. Media supported the programme by amplifying success stories, motivating sanitation champion girls and women, and connecting to the influences so that a consistent and sustained messaging on the importance of constructing and using toilets reached to everyone, in turn inspiring them to become the champions themselves. In fact, media has played central role in communicating messages to a range of audiences. UNICEF supported the Government of UP in effectively engaging with media.

SBM (G)-ll scope and focus:

  • The second phase of sanitation: SBM(G) II has been designed and launched with an objective of sustaining the ODF communities and ensuring that sanitation practice in India becomes at par with the growing economy. A budget of Rs 140,881 crores has been approved for the five years (2019/20-2024/25) programme period. Two key components of the programme are highlighted below.
  1. Sustaining the ODF: To sustain the ODF gains, SBM(G)II intends to ensure that all remaining households get access to toilets, existing toilets are retro fitted to meet safety/technical standards, community sanitary complexes are built for an easy access to toilets for everyone.
  2. Sustainable Solid and Liquid Waste Management: The solid and liquid waste management component focuses on: 

a) bio-organic waste management,

b) plastic waste management
c) liquid waste management, and 

d) faecal sludge management (FSM). 

  • Further, a business approach to planning and management is recommended, with mechanism of revenue generation for operation and maintenance at the local level. For the FSM, the SBM(G) II guidelines suggest districts to prepare District FSM Plan, outlining the technology to be adopted and arrangement for sustainable operation and maintenance. The programme highlights the important role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), and media in achieving and sustaining countrywide safe sanitation practices.
  1. Role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs): SBM(G)II guidelines have explicitly recognised the critical role of PRIs, aligning to the 73rd Amendment Act-1992 of the Constitution of India. This constitutional provision empowers PRIs as critical institutions in the planning and implementation of SBM(G)II; the provision for the use of 15th Finance Commission grants to/by local bodies to fund SBM(G)-II initiatives through convergence at the local level, further strengthens the mandate of the PRIs. Aligned to this mandate, SBM (G)ll recommends establishment of a District SBM Committee, under the Chair of the District Panchayat (Zila Parishad) with the Co-chair of District Collector/Magistrate. Similarly, MPs/MLAs are recommended as the members of this committee at the district level.
  2. IEC and Role of Media: SBM(G)-II recognises the critical role of information, education and communication (IEC); 5 percent of budget (Rs.7,040 crores) is earmarked for range of social and behaviour change communication strategies and related capacity development work. Use of innovative communication strategies including inter-personal communication, mass-media, creatives, use of social media, regular felicitation of champions, leveraging of celebrities and mobilisation of influences such as faith leaders, local leaders, schools, Anganwadi centers, community self-help groups are considered important. Demand generation and local community ownership is critical to achieve sustained behaviour change towards safe sanitation practices.

Framework for Empowering the PRIs:

  • As SBM(G)II strategy has highlighted, the role of PRIs is critical in achieving safely managed sanitation for all in India. Section below provides some food for thought on how the role of PRIs could be strengthened/materialised.
  1. Making sanitation a part of the GPDP framework: As envisaged in the SBG(G)II guidelines and the Constitution of India, GPs are required to prepare inclusive Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) in participatory way. It is required that sanitation SDGs are part of the GPDP plan, so that they are implemented with priority and ODF is sustained. Different states are at different levels in terms of the capacity of GPs to plan and implement inclusive GPDPs. Their institutional capacity especially in the areas of data/evidence based planning, ensuring meaningful participation of women, girls and marginalised groups, monitoring of GPDP implementation, and knowledge management needs to be strengthened.
  1. Engagement of Block and District Panchayats: As articulated in the Constitution of India, there exist a three-tier structure of Panchayati Raj system: Gram Panchayat (GP), intermediate or block (Panchayat Samiti — PS) and district (Zilla Parishad — ZP) levels. SBM(G)II guidelines have clearly mentioned the role of the GPs and the District Panchayats (DPs). However, the role of Panchayat Samiti at Block level is not mentioned exclusively. Aligning to the democratic principles enshrined in the constitution, elected representatives at the Block level could also be made the chairpersons of the Block level sanitation committee. Further, the DPs and Block Panchayats (PSs) should have critical role in strengthening and supporting GPs within their jurisdiction, in planning and implementation of the sanitation plan. In addition, the PRIs can be the main vehicle to ensure sustained engagement of Safaikarmis, Swachhagrahis and Nigrani Samitis.
  1. Accountability framework for PRIs

  • Accountability of democratic institutions is about their effective participation in planning and monitoring of the development work, so that they can be held accountable to their constituencies. It is recommended that the following consideration be at the centre of the PRIs role and accountability framework.
  • District Panchayats: Lead the district level planning process, have mandate of endorsing the plan, quarterly monitoring of progress, and mobilisation of Block and GP level teams.
  • Block Panchayats (PS): Support GPs in implementation of their GPDP linked sanitation plan and ensure robust monitoring of the outcomes at the Block level.
  • GPs: Ensure preparation of inclusive GPDPs and implement the SBM(G)II programme as part of the GPDPs.
  1. Engagement of Media As a Tool for Downward Accountability: Role of media is crucial; it could be threefold:
    i) sharing information on various aspects of SBM(G) II and entitlements of communities, 

ii) supporting PRIs by sharing emerging best practices from across the country for replication with or without adaptions, and 

iii) identification of gaps and delays in programme implementation and sharing the same with wider public so that the PRIs are held accounatable to their citizens.

  • By playing these roles effectively, media can act as the agency of the marginalised communities, adolescent girls and minority groups. Achieving safely managed sanitation for all, requires sustained engagement of community groups as well as PRIs and media becomes critical in this process.

Conclusions and Way Forward

The SBM(G)II provides a sound framework to ensure sustainability of ODF communities across India and to ensure that country’s sanitation practice becomes at par with the economic development. Role of PRIs and media becomes crucial in achieving this.
a) Accountability framework for PRIs: The SBM(G) II provides a critical role to the PRIs in planning and implementation of SBM(G), aligning to the democratic principles enshrined in the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India. As the duty bearers, PRIs need a clearly defined institutional platform to be able to deliver on their mandates. Recommendations to have a district level SBM(G) Committee chaired by the Chairperson of the District Panchayat, and earmarking of the 15th Finance Commission funds for SBM(G) implementation are very much welcome steps. The SBG(G) II guidelines could further elaborate the role of PRIs at all three levels so that they can be held accountable to robust planning and delivery of safe sanitation services within their areas of jurisdictions.
b) Critical role of Media: As in any democratic processes, role of media is critical in SBM(G). Media can be the agency of the marginalised communities, and can promote transparency by communicating on the citizen’s entitlements, avenues and good practices. Media can further strengthen democratic processes concerning planning and delivery of safe sanitation, as aimed under the SBM(G) II.
c) Partnerships and Capacity Building of PRIs and Communities: Capacity building in both technical aspect as well as institutional, social, environmental, financial and behavioural aspect of SBM(G)II, needs to be at the center of the planning and implementation of programme. Development partners, civil society, private sector and academic institutions need to be considered and engaged at all levels through development of multi-stakeholder partnerships tailored to the local contexts.



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Courtesy: Kurukshetra