Is Swachh Bharat Mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 successful? In the last three years, critics have often relied on anecdotal evidence to “prove” the cleanliness mission, especially its thrust on building toilets, has failed. However, empirical evidence put out by Quality Council of India (QCI) may surprise the critics. Adil Zainulbhai, QCI chairman, writes in The Indian Express, “QCI survey gathered empirical evidence of a dramatic improvement in both coverage and usage of toilets. Three years after the launch of the mission, a behavioural change is discernible, especially in rural India.”
QCI is a national accreditation body that has been involved in most of the marquee Swachh Bharat schemes to evaluate sanitation performance through an internationally bench-marked evaluation matrix. Started by GOI and industry associations, QCI chairman is appointed by the PM. QCI has been carrying out Swachh Survekshan survey.
According to Census 2011, over five out of 10 households did not have a toilet or individual household latrine (IHHL). Or, around seven in 0 rural homes did not have a toilet and there were almost two in 10 urban homes where family members had to defecate in the open.
However, there has been “dramatic” change in the recent years. Zainulbhai says QCI survey found that only less than three in 10 households (26.75 per cent) were without a toilet in the country (against 50 per cent as per the 2011 census). Similarly in rural India, “the number of households without toilets has come down to 32.5 per cent (from 69 per cent). That is, toilet coverage has more than doubled in rural India in these three years. For urban areas that number is 14.5 per cent (down from 18 per cent).”
The survey also found that over nine in 10 (91.29 per cent) rural households having access to a toilet are using it and it is similar for urban areas. Out of 73 cities that participated in Swachh Survekshan 2016, 54 cities improved their score in overall municipal solid waste management in 2017.
On reported cases of open defecation in cities already declared open defecation free (ODF), Zainulbhai says “these are isolated cases. Even if we are not yet at 100 per cent, isn’t 90 per cent plus a remarkable number, considering the daunting scale of the mission?”
The QCI chief points out that Swachh Bharat urban and rural projects have triggered a “healthy competition among cities and districts.” “Self-help groups, NGOs and popular icons have pitched in and the results are showing in the form of a record number of sustainable toilets, open defecation-free towns, schools with gender specific toilets and decrease in water borne diseases in ODF villages and towns,” he writes.
Zainulbhai says that 100s of Indians die from preventable diseases every year, especially in places which have maximum incidence of open defecation. “Faeces in groundwater spread encephalitis, an annual post-monsoon scourge, diarrhoea stunts children and adults and underweight mothers produce babies prone to sickness. The cycle is lethal.”
These are the reasons for which he concludes, “Swachh Bharat must power on”.