On August 15, 2014, the Hon’ble Prime Minister gave a clarion call to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort to wage a war against fifth and open defecation, and achieve a clean and open defecation free India as Mahatma Gandhi had dreamed of, by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji.

This was arguably the most ambitious and bold declaration by a head of state towards cleanliness and sanitation in the world. From the highest level, the discussion on sanitation was removed from the closet and put in the forefront of national policy and development. The age old practice of open defecation causes over 1 lakh preventable child death every year
through diarrheal infections. A study by the World Bank estimates that nearly 40 per cent of India’s children are stunted, primarily because of lack of sanitation. This has an adverse impact on their economic potential, and is estimated to cost India over 6 percent of our GDP. Women’s safety and dignity are often comprised due to open defecation.

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The Progress of SBM

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SMB) has almost completed three years. Overall, progress is very good, with some States performing better than others. Rural
sanitation coverage has gone up from 39 percent at the start of a mission to the current figure of 68 percent. Over 230 million people in rural India have stopped defeacting in the open, 193 districts and about 235,000 villages across the country have been declared as open defecation free (ODF). Five States – Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana and Uttarakhand have become ODF. One of the biggest achievements has been that all the 4000 + villages on the banks of the holy Ganga have become ODF!

The MDWS and States are attempting to involve locally elected representatives, grassroots-level organisations, NGOs, youth organisations, school students, corporate and civil society organisation in making the SBM a janandolan. Electronicand prang mass media is being used to reinforce the sanitation messages and broaden its appeal. Bollywood stars and cricketers are also getting involved Superstar Amitabh Bachchan is leading a “Darwaja Bandh” (one open defecationi) campaign on TV, radio and outdoor hoardings across the country. Akshay Kumar had made a blockbuster Bollywood movie on the subject of open defecation – Toilet-Ek Prem Katha which has been the biggest hit of this year.

Once a village declares itself as ODF at a Gram Sabha, verification of the latter status becomes key. Currently verification of ODF villages stands at around 60 percent, up from only 25 percent a few months ago. The SMB-G guidelines provide for a 90-day window for third party verification of a village’s self-declared ODF status. Any gaps found need to be immediately indentified and addressed by the community during verification. This focus on timely verification of ODF status is the second big difference between the SBM and previous sanitation programmes.

SBM Becoming a Janandolan

As the SBM nears its third anniversary, we are at a tipping point from where the mission can spiral into a massive janandolan provide given some higher impetus. Inspired by the Hon’ble Prime Ministers’ call of ushering in a New India, the SBM-Ghas launched as slew of new initiatives to engage the general public with the Swachhta revolution in India. The first of these is the Swachhathon – the Swachh Bharat Hackathon which invites innovative technology based solutions to some of the most challenging questions being faced by SBM-G. The questions being answered include how to measure usage of toilets in a non-intrusive manner at scale, how to leverage technology to spark behaviour change at scale, frugal toilet technology designs for difficult terrains, ways to leverage technology to promote maintenance of school toilets, technological solutions for safe disposal of menstrual waste and technologies for early/instant decomposition of faecal matter. The Swachhathon has received over 3000 entries from across the country, and has contributed many innovative ideas which will help further the goals of the SMB-G.

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Courtesy: Yojana