Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Swachh Bharat initiative may be celebrating two years with much fanfare on Sunday but just a fifth of the respondents in a recent nationwide survey say local municipalities have improved garbage collection or cleanliness.
The study found the hygiene has visibly improved in only four states – three of them ruled by the BJP while the rest of India reported marginal or no change, despite high-profile endorsements by top politicians and stars and a government drive to build toilets.
The survey – conducted by citizen engagement platform LocalCircles – said Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra showed the most improvement while Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar reported no change. Other states showed marginal improvement.
“The survey shows gradual progress but municipalities still remain a major area of concern. Municipal bodies are still not fully engaged with citizens or even the mission,“ said K Yatish Rajawat, chief strategy officer, LocalCircles.
More than half of all survey respondents said civic sense hadn’t improved in the last two years and 71% said they don’t have phone numbers of municipal staff. 87% said they frequently observed plastic or hazardous waste dumped in their city. Only a fifth thought availability of public toilets had improved since Swachh Bharat was kicked off in 2014.
A separate study by data journalism website IndiaSpend showed that some of the worst-performing states -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand -- had a history of poor sanitation efforts.
Government data showed just 23% households in these five states use toilets, an increase of only 2% over 15 years.
These worst-performing states were the same as those under the Total Sanitation Campaign, launched 17 years ago by NDA-1—the first time the National Democratic Alliance came to power.
Together, these states account for 37% of India’s 1.2 billion people: 448 million people live in UP, Bihar, MP, Odisha and Jharkhand—only China with 1.3 billion has more people than these five states. Without headway here, the initiative is not likely to succeed.
The discrepancy between the two surveys appeared to be Madhya Pradesh – while respondents in the LocalCircles study reported 30% improvement – putting it in the top-performing bracket, the IndiaSpend story pegged the improvement at just 2%.
Modi brought the focus back on the scheme this week when he called for a Swachhagraha, on the lines of a movement Mahatma Gandhi had launched during India’s freedom struggle.
But the LocalCircles study said it would take at least 32 years for the government to reach its target in toilet building in the PM’s constituency of Varanasi.
Corresponding time periods to achieve these targets were 35 years for home minister Rajnath Singh’s constituency of Lucknow and eight for foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s Vidisha. Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh will take 74 years to reach his target for Purvi Champaran while transport minister Nitin Gadkari will take only two years, the survey said.
(With inputs from Indiaspend)