Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his nationwide Swachh Bharat campaign on Thursday which aims to achieve a clean India by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by raising awareness of cleanliness and better sanitation.
Modi’s mission is ambitious as approximately 120 million households, almost 50% of households in India, defecate in the open, according to the 2011 Census.
According to 2012 World Bank figures, India accounts for 59% of the total 1.1 billion people in the world who defecate in the open. Open defecation is one of the primary causes of diarrhoea and also the reason for 10% of under-five deaths in India.
From 2001 to 2011, around 50 million household toilets have been built all across India to improve sanitation. Thus on an average 5 million toilets have been built every year during the above mentioned period.
Sanitation has always been one of the most important concerns of governments at the centre. In 1999, the Total Sanitation Campaign was launched taking a cue from the Central Rural Sanitation Campaign, which was launched in 1986. Central Rural Sanitation Campaign proved to be a major failure.
And even after 28 years since the launch of Central Rural Sanitation Programme and the amount of money and time spent in chasing the sanitation dream is still unfulfilled.
A total of Rs. 12,628 crore was allocated to India's sanitation program in the last five yearly budgets. And now, Modi's Swachh Bharat has extended the sanitation program for another 5 years.
According to data available, Jharkhand may pose the biggest challenge for Modi in achieving the goals of his Swachh Bharat campaign.
In 2011, Jharkhand had the highest percentage of households - 77% - without latrines. In 2001, this number was 80%. This drop of 3 percentage points is one of the lowest changes among all the states in the last decade.
Jharkhand not only has the largest number of households without access to latrines but also features among the top 5 states with the worst decadal rate of building toilets.
Understandably, Jharkhand also has the highest rate of open defecation in India and a whopping 92% of rural households in Jharkhand defecate in the open.
Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are other regions of concern with a lot of catching up to do.
Other challenges for Modi include utilisation of money allocated. For example, during the eleventh five year plan only 82% of the total outlay of Rs 6,690 crore was utilised.
An evaluation study by the Planning Commission says that “lack of awareness” and “established age old practice”, inadequate availability of water and lack of maintenance funds are the biggest reasons for people’s lack of sanitation.
The article does not consider school toilets.
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