NEW DELHI :
Under the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s second term, its flagship programme Swachh Bharat Mission is likely to get a major boost. In 2014, the government had launched the programme to make India open defecation-free (ODF) by October 2019 and achieve universal sanitation coverage.
In its manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also promised to take the programme to the next level and ensure that every village has sustainable solid waste management systems, 100% disposal of liquid waste, with an emphasis on faecal sludge management and reuse of wastewater. “We will ensure that all habitations attain ODF status, and those that have attained the status, sustain the behavioural change," the manifesto had said.
The government’s progress on the cleanliness drive has always been a matter of debate following contradictory findings by private organisations. However, under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen), the government has declared that over 540,000 villages and 585 districts are open defecation-free. Besides, 27 states and Union territories have also declared themselves ODF. The government also claims that over 90 million toilets have been built across rural India, taking the national rural sanitation coverage up from 39% in 2014 to over 98% as of now.
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities became a major sustainable development goal (SDG-6) under the 2015 announcement by the United Nations that all countries must achieve 17 global goals listed under the 2030 Agenda.
The government also said that the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2017-18, which was conducted by an independent verification agency supported by the World Bank, had confirmed that rural toilet usage in India had reached 93.4%.
The NARSS team had visited over 90,000 households across more than 6,000 villages before releasing their findings.
Two more independent surveys conducted by the Quality Council of India in 2017, and the National Sample Survey Organization in 2016, also found the usage of toilets to be 91% and 95%, respectively.
“Considering access to potable drinking water and basic sanitation as an important determinant of health; government should dovetail Swachh Bharat Abhiyan activities with health and wellness centres under Ayushman Bharat," said Dinesh Agarwal, senior technical advisor, IPE Global Ltd.