The Centre has come out with a clarification to dispel claims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is not working. According to a Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation release, the sanitation coverage in rural India has gone up from 42% to 64% since the launch of SBM, and the Rapid Survey of Swachhta Status of the NSSO conducted in May-June 2015 said that 95.6% of people who had toilets, used them.
It goes on to say that Swachh Bharat Mission is not essentially a toilet construction-led programme but also focuses on toilet usage. “The metric ‘Open Defecation Free’, which was defined in 2015 shortly after the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), is essentially a measure of toilet usage. Unless every member of every household in a village uses a toilet for defecation, the village cannot be declared ODF.”
The government says that there are several independent verification mechanisms in place for SBM. In 2015, the NSSO carried out the Rapid Survey of Swachhta Status in May-June. At present, the Quality Council of India is carrying out a similar exercise covering nearly 100,000 households.
The ministry has also instituted National Level Monitors to verify all ODF districts, with a special focus on the villages on the banks of the Ganga. An Independent Verification Agency (IVA) has also been hired as part of the World Bank loan, which is less than 10% of the total projected government outlay (Centre and States) for the mission.
The World Bank loan agreement was signed on March 30, 2016.
The ministry says there is a multi-stage verification system at the district and state level for Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages. As per the SBM guidelines, a village needs to be verified within three months of the declaration of ODF. “Of the 2 lakh ODF declared villages, nearly 1.5 lakh have been declared ODF only in the last year. Over 1 lakh villages have already been verified,” it says.
SBM aims for behaviour change through IEC. The Centre is spending around 3% of the Union SBM budget on Information, education and communication (IEC), while the States are expected to spend 5% of their respective State+Centre budgets on IEC. A recent order of the ministry made spending the stipulated amount by States on IEC will a pre-condition for the release of funds to States from the next second instalment onwards of 2017-18.