Objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission

Objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission are – elimination of open defecation, conversion of insanitary toilets to pour flush toilets, eradication of manual scavenging, 10% collection and scientific processing/disposal reuse/recycle of municipal solid waste, to bring about a behavioural change in people regarding healthy sanitation practices. The programme aims to generate awareness among the citizens about sanitation and its association with health. It also calls for strengthening of urban local bodies to design, implement and operate systems to create conducive environment for private sector participation.

Menace of the Open Defecation

One of the major causes of lack of cleanliness in the country is open defecation. It refers to a practice whereby people go out in fields or other open spaces rather than using the toilets to defecate. This practice is quite rampant in India. A UN report says that India is home to the world’s largest population of people who defecate in the open and so close to 65,000 tonnes of excreta is added into the environment each day.

The Open Defecation Free (ODF)

To become Open Defecation Free (ODF) is an uphill task for a country like ours. The age-old practices and a lack of awareness among people are posing severe challenges to health. Only three states have so far declared themselves as Open Defecation Free. These are: Sikkim, Himanchal Pradesh and Kerala. Sikkim is the first Indian state which was declared ODF state under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

In October 2016, Himachal Pradesh was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) state under the SBM. After Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh got this status to have toilet for every individual household. Among bigger states, however, Himachal Pradesh is the first state to become ODF. All 12 districts of the state have been covered as ODF districts. It entitles Himachal Pradesh to receive the World Bank funding under Rs. 9,000 crore projects to sustain sanitation campaign. In November 2016, Kerala was declared as ODF state. States like Haryana, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Punjab are likely to achieve ODF status for all rural areas by 31st March 2017. According to the official figures, about 113,000 villages in India have become ODF. But the full potential of this cleanness drive is yet to be realised.

Funding of the Swachh Bharat Mission

This mission is one of the leading centrally-sponsored schemes for which cooperation of all the states is quite important. The SBM receives funds through budgetary allocations, contributions to the Swachh Bharat Kosh and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It also receives funding assistance from the international organisation like the World Bank. The Government of India introduced Swachh Bharat Cess (SBC) in 2015 which is used for financing and promoting the Swachh Bharat initiatives.

It is applicable on all taxable services. It is levied, charged, collected and paid to the Government of India, independent of service tax. It is charged as a separate line item in the invoice. SBC has been introduced for financing and promoting Swachh Bharat initiatives and has become effective since 15 November 2015 at the rate of 0.5% on all taxable services. SBC is collected in the Consolidated Fund of India.

The Union Government has already announced for Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) in 2014. Its Governing Council is chaired by Secretary, the Department of Expenditure, and Ministry of Finance. Secretaries from several ministries are part of it. Its instruction is to procure Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds from the corporate sector and philanthropists. It accepts contributions from individuals also. The Kosh is used to achieve the objective of improving cleanliness levels in rural and urban areas.

Though people have started to pitch in to help spread the message of ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, we still have miles to go. The government needs to work on the entire sanitation value chain including water supply, safe disposal and treatment of waste, and maintenance of infrastructure. The construction of toilets as well as awareness campaigns needs the backing of the state for regular monitoring of the toilet use. Not only this, there is a need to engage the community also to address the age-old practices in the rural areas.  At this juncture, every countryman should take a pledge that he/she will contribute towards making India clean in the true sense of the term.