Budget 2018: Presented ahead of Budget 2018, Economic Survey 2018 has brought good news for PM Narendra Modi’s pet sanitation programme – Swachch Bharat Mission. As per the Economic Survey, the number of persons defecating in open in rural areas has declined to 25 crore in January 2018 from 55 crore in October 2014. The survey also declares eight states and two Union Territories as open defecation free. Stating that the quality of hygiene and sanitation has a significant impact on improving the health outcomes, the survey said that 296 districts and 3,07,349 villages across India have been declared as ODF (Open Defecation Free) so far. The states and UTs declared as ODF include Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Daman & Diu and Chandigarh.
Citing a UNICEF report, the survey, presented ahead of Budget 2018, said lack of sanitation is responsible for the death of over 1,00,000 children in India annually. It states that non-ODF districts have lower percentage of population with secondary education and reflect higher levels of diarrhoea and stunting. It adds that a clear cut evidence of behavioural shift has been recorded in ODF areas due to the larger presence and proactive work undertaken by village health and sanitation committees.
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Economic Survey, the crucial exercise before Budget 2018, further said that economic gains have also been recorded in ODF areas. “According to the World Bank estimates, the lack of sanitation facilities costs India over 6 per cent of GDP,” says the survey ahead of Budget 2018. Citing UNICEF, the survey says that a household in an ODF village in rural India saves Rs 50,000 every year. In October 2016, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh became the first two states to be declared free of open defecation. A year later, in October 2017, five more states Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Haryana were announced as ‘Open Defecation Free’. The announcement was made by the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri.
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Giving an account of the progress towards ‘Swacchata’ in urban areas of the country, Puri had said that as against the target of building about 66 lakh individual household toilets in urban areas, 38 lakh toilets have already been built and construction of another 14 lakh toilets is in progress. In an October 2017 press release, the government said that over two lakh community and public toilet seats have been built as against the mission target of five lakh toilet seats. It will be remarkable to see if Budget 2018 will give boost to Swachch Bharat mission or not. The government had said that sanitation is a birth right and individual responsibility as well. Puri, the miniser concerned, had stressed on the need for ‘life style change’ to realise the objective of Swacch Bharat.