By Ridhima Aneja,

Edited by Anjini Chandra, The Indian Economist

From the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan introduced by the previous Congress government, to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan of the present government, something that must be understood by the politicians of our country is that there is much more to a cleanliness campaign than presenting an enthusiastic set of officials forming a broom wielding brigade.

The year 2014 marked the launch of the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, beginning one of the most ambitious programmes on sanitation in the country till date. The high degree of policy priority accorded to sanitation and the proposed budgetary outlays could go a long way in achieving an open, clean, free India. The effective implementation of the programme would translate into not only a better global standing for the government, but also improved human development indicators for the country. The need to prioritize sanitation in the country’s policy agenda has been underscored by the senior leaders across the political spectrum, though drinking water and sanitation are recognised as state subjects under the Constitution of India. This Abhiyaan has sparked interest among the media, policy makers and common citizens.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have admonished all its signatory nations to extend access to improved sanitation, to at least half the urban population by 2015, and the entire population by 2025. However, there are assessments which cause worry regarding the sanitation scenario in our country. The WHO/UNICEF ‘Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation’ has said that at our present pace, it would take India until 2054 to meet its Millennium Development Goals 2015 on sanitation. To make the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan a success, some points need to be taken into consideration.
First, the availability of water. As of 1st April 2014, out of 16,96,664 habitations in the country, only 12,49,695 have adequate provisions for drinking water. To maintain cleanliness, we need appropriate quantities of water. It also seems that more than the water issue, the problem is its management, and equal supply to all. The second is the availability of toilets. Worldwide, around 2.5 million people lack access to basic sanitation facilities, such as a latrine, a third of whom live in India.
The disposal of human excreta imposes a significant threat to public health, and a huge environmental cost which is around 60% of the country’s GDP. The success of the Abhiyaan can only be ensured if basic facilities like these can be made available. For ensuring an effective sanitation policy, what is imperative is mass awareness, keeping in mind the social and occupational aspects of sanitation. Also, coordination among administrative bodies and institutions, optimum utilisation of resources and the bridging of the demand supply gap is necessary.
A lot more is needed to move towards the elimination of manual scavenging. Effective steps are required to integrate the informal sector and the formal sector of waste management. Also, the implementation of policy strategies is a welcome step, although simply earmarking funds for SC and ST households will have a very limited impact. Effort should be made to modify the scheme designed, and to address the factors restricting access to the households of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Investment in sanitation should be taken into account, as well as the full cycle of safe confinement, treatment and disposal. Past testimonies indicate that poor communities are marginalised from the benefits of almost all schemes initiated and implemented by the government. Large parts of modern cities remain unconnected by the sewage system, as they live in unauthorized areas where State Services do not reach. A large number of BPL families and other weaker sections have not been able build toilets in their houses, which needs to be fixed. Gram Panchayats should incentivize on staggering bases to motivate villagers to achieve total sanitation, and also to sustain it through a community lead approach.

It is incumbent upon the hordes of cleanliness campaigners to ensure the enforcement of minimum wage laws, labour standards and occupational health of workers. To achieve the target of complete sanitation by 2019, the government needs the support of all sections of the society. It is also possible that the Indian corporate sector may take this within the ambit of corporate social responsibility. The onus is upon the government of the day to lead by example, and to translate the goal of Swachh Bharat into a reality by 2019.


  • – 27th November 2014.
  • India’s Sanitation for all: How to Make It Happen (2009) Asian Development Bank.
  • National Family Health Survey(NFHS- 3 ), Ministry of Health and Welfare ( 2005-06)
  • Yojana Magazine : January 2015 issue

Ridhima Aneja is a third year student pursuing B.COM (Hons.) from Sri Venkateswara College, University Of Delhi. She has an eye for perfection and detail and is a girl who never settles for mediocrity. Being an optimist and a work enthusiast, she aims to become habitual to achieving her goals and aspirations even while facing complexities in both professional and personal fronts. An aspiring diplomat and lawyer, blessed with a dauntless personality, she enjoys corporate law but her true interest lies in India’s relations with other countries, especially Pakistan and working for women rights. She aims to be a catalyst in making every Indian household a violence free home. She identifies herself  with being a  part of an emerging world community and become integral enough that her actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices. A girl who is strictly driven by her passions, she is also a national level debater , a skilled dramatist and a self proclaimed dancer .

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind