Sep 28, 2016: Sangeeta Ahwale of Saikheda village in Washim district of Maharashtra sold her ‘mangalsutra’ to build a toilet. 104 year old Kunwar Bai of Kotabharri village of Dhamtari district in Chattisgarh sold her goats to build a toilet. Priyanka Adivasi of Gopalpura village in Kolaras block returned to her parents as there is no toilet at her in-laws’ house. A muslim woman in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh presented a toilet to her new daughter-in-law. There are several reports of girls refusing to get married into houses without toilets. In all these cases, women are pioneering a new spirit for upholding self-esteem. School girl Lavanya sat on hunger strike until all 80 households in her village Halenahalli in Karnataka built toilets. These are only some glimpses of a new tide of transformation towards a Swachh Bharat.
Swachh Bharat Mission, launched by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014 is one of the pioneering initiatives launched over the last two years. Certainly, this idea of making a Clean India is not a new one. Earlier too, there were similar efforts like the Total Sanitation Mission and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. But the difference this time around is the power of intent and implementation. Focus now is on ‘behavioral change’ which is necessary for using toilets. It is easy to build toilets but more challenging is to make people use them.
It is amazing that Mahatma Gandhi voiced his concerns about poor sanitation in the country exactly 100 years ago while speaking at Benares Hindu University in Varanasi. He was appalled by what he saw all along the streets that led to the famous Kashi Viswanath Temple. Gandhiji said that sanitation is as important as political freedom. India got freed from colonial rule 69 years back but not from the curse of filth and dirt all around in the open. Prime Minister Shri Modi , hence, launched a mission seeking freedom of the country from this scourge by 2019.
All through the ages, Indian culture and ethos have stressed on the ‘purity of soul’. As a means to individual salvation, this concept of purity of soul virtually encompassed all aspects of thought processes and actions including living in harmony with the nature. Piles of garbage all around, throwing litter in open, polluting canals and rivers, blocked sewers and drains, rising water and air pollution, felling trees and forests is not in consonance with ‘purity of living’ inspired by ‘purity of soul’.
Swachh Bharat Mission seeks to restore harmony between the soul and the nature by reorienting thought processes and actions of people. It has psychological and socio-economic dimensions. These correspond to behavioral modification and inclusive development by way of implications.
Open defecation and solid and liquid waste management are the two critical components of realizing the goal of a Clean India. While the former is a common concern in both rural and urban areas, the latter is of prime concern in urban areas. Given the serious implications for health and particularly, the economic burden on the poor placed by diseases caused by poor sanitation, ensuring Open Defecation Free India including clean cities is the need of the hour.
Behavioral changes to be ushered in include promoting the habit of using toilets, not throwing any litter in the open, segregating solid waste at source, making a habit of sanitation practices like washing hands before eating, keeping living and work places and public spaces clean, community participation in managing public sanitation assets, maintaining parks etc. in essence, sanitation both in private and public spaces shall emerge as a shared concern of all citizen. This sensitization is key to the success of ongoing efforts for a Swachh Bharat.
Open defecation is a clear negation of self-esteem besides being a telling commentary on inequitable development. This has become a habit more out of compulsion and given an opportunity, no one would like to go out to defecate. It has no justification whatsoever. This is even more outrageous in urban areas.
It is heartening to know that over the last two years about 85,000 villages and 141 cities have become Open Defecation Free. Over two crore toilets have been built in rural areas and over 25 lakhs in urban areas since the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission.
After a slow start, Swachh Bharat Mission has since gained momentum and this shall be maintained over the next three years, for the country to be freed from the perils of poor hygiene. Swachh India is the most profound statement that India can make to the world by 2019.
In the run up to the second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission, cross country awareness campaigns and activities are being taken up to rekindle the spirit of sanitation and to renew our pledge for a Clean India.
On day one Prime Minister told me to ensure that the Swachh mission becomes a ‘Jan Andolan’ and not a governmental programme. We have made earnest efforts in this regard reaching out to all sections of people seeking their involvement in this mass campaign and to motivate fellow citizens as well. Governors, Chief Ministers, elected representatives of people at various levels, industry bodies, iconic persons from different walks of life are now involved in the ongoing effort for Swachh Bharat.
Given the Indian values of purity of soul and people selling their family silver for building toilets and the sanitation movement acquiring mass character, Swachh Bharat will not remain a distant dream.
*The writer is Union Minister of Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information & Broadcasting. (Courtesy: PIB Feature)