25 Oct 2016 14:50 IST

Wielding the Swachh broom

Implementation of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan remains a challenge

In the recent Bollywood movie Pink Amitabh Bachchan says: “Protect your boys and the girls will be protected.”

It is all about behaviour change — be it about women security, or cleanliness. And who would know it better than the team that is implementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project ‘Swachh Bharat Mission,’ which completed two years on October 2.

“Man should be told that it is not macho to relieve himself outdoor – rail tracks or fields,” says Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. He is spearheading the implementation of the programme.

It is not an easy task. While the scale of the project is unprecedented, it is not just about size. Sanitation is a behavioural issue that involves change of mindset to adopt safe practices.

“You must acknowledge that lack of change in behaviour even on part of few members can put the entire community at risk,” Iyer points out, adding that apart from the size, Swachh Bharat mission also has a stiff deadline – October 2, 2019.

Talking to Iyer makes one think, is Swachh Bharat a “Mission Impossible?” Would it be possible to manage the mission’s scale and also bring about the behavioural change?

Making a start

Though many had suggested that a ‘professional agency’ should implement the programme, government machineries at the Central, State and local levels have made a start to turn this cleanliness drive into a ‘mass movement’.

People are now talking about cleanliness and sanitation, even in cocktail circuits. “Now the term defecation is no longer a taboo,” says an executive with an NGO. The government has also defined the term ‘open defecation free,’ or OPD, and has issued uniform standards and guidelines for verifying if a village or a city is free of open defecation.

There is also a realisation that toilet construction and behavioural change communication have to go hand-in-hand, as the success of an ODF programme will be measured by the usage of toilets.

The programme is divided into two categories -- Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). In both, especially in the rural parts, the scheme requires engagement with community and facilitation – both of which are a constraint. Organisationally, the Ministry for Drinking Water and Sanitation is looking at the rural part of the scheme, and the Urban Development Ministry is implementing the programme in urban areas. For the gramin programme, capacity building of key stakeholders such as collectors/CEOs, zilla panchayats and chairmen is being carried out.

“In rural, there are two things which the Centre is doing -- there is construction and usage of individual household toilets for which an incentive of ₹12,000 is given. The incentive is financed by Centre and State on a 60:40 basis; the second is solid and liquid waste management which can be used dovetailing different resources,” Iyer explains.

Numbers show that the Swachh Bharat Kosh, a fund created for using for this programme, has not really taken off, in the two years it has been in existence. The contributions are a little over ₹400 crore. Iyer agrees that the Kosh needs to be promoted.

The monitoring has been strengthened to record outputs (toilet construction) and also get the latest data on ODF. Key Resource Centres have been roped in for capacity building and to support district administration.

Bringing technology into play, Iyer shows a Hike Messenger Group, which has local administrators from the respective states showcasing their achievements in implementing the scheme. “Every single day whatever ground level behaviour change is happening across 173 districts, it is reported in this Hike group. The group never sleeps. The problem is no one know about these things,” Iyer says.

After two years, the leaders and the laggards have been identified, and focus is on the states like Bihar that have lagged. As of now, in urban areas, toilet construction is being led by states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, while waste management component of the programme has made the most headway in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.

Private participation

According to Swachh Bharat (Urban Development Ministry) Mission Director Praveen Prakash, after the government guidelines on corporate social responsibility and the call from the Prime Minister, many companies are interested in putting their CSR money in Swachh Bharat projects. But there were two issues, he states: “One is that we don’t have any DPR (detailed project report) which we can put it to CSR committee. Second, once we have approved the project, we are not taken in the loop during the period of execution.

“We have created one portal where we will encourage these 4,041 cities that are under the programme to upload their projects. Once the project is uploaded, we will ask companies to register on that portal.

“So the moment the city uploads a DPR, an SMS is sent to all companies. Then (selection is based on) first come first serve bidding. Once it is locked, some portion of the funds will be transferred to the city by the company” he added.

Cities will keep uploading progress reports and photographs. “We will ask citizens to comment. The companies will also have an option to either transfer money to the city, or the company can also get projects executed on their own,” he added.

The execution challenges apart, Iyer is optimistic. “If the programme takes off, and the society accepts it, then remaining hiccups can always be sorted,” says Iyer.

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