Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Importance, Challenges And Suggestions

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Importance, Challenges And Suggestions

Once the programme is implemented in totality, the achievement will be recorded in the annals of history in golden letters and the Prime Minister will occupy a place in the galaxy of great statesmen of the world. India will be shining like other developed nations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech on August 15, 2014, made a very important announcement of achieving total sanitation by 2nd October 2019—the day 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi falls. Launching of the sanitation programme on 2nd October 2014 will be the fittest tribute to the Father of the Nation as Bapu along with the freedom movement, was greatly concerned with the sanitation issues in the country. After the Shimla Conference in May 1945 was over, Gandhiji straightway went to the nearby quarters and started discussing the problem of poor conditions of latrines with the residents. The Ashram at Wardha was set up to teach the poor people to build a sanitary environment.

The proposed sanitation programme will prove to be a great game changer for India in two respects:

1) Sanitation has a direct link with the spread of communicable diseases which are prevalent in India in ample measures. As a matter of fact the “Health for All by 2000 A.D” flopped because an effective sanitation programme was not launched simultaneously. The basic cause of frequent epidemics in India is the omnipresent insanitation. India will usher into a genuine era of Health for All by 2/10/2019 if the above programme is implemented in its totality.

2) Living in an insanitary environment degrades the quality of human life and it is a curse and social stigma both. Therefore, the accomplishment of Total Sanitation Programme (TSP) will improve the living standards of the poorest of the poor on one hand and improve the Human Development Index (HDI) of India on the other. Presently, India stands at No. 134 in the HDI table of UNO. Poverty is half painful if one gets a chance to live in a perfect sanitary environment. In fact, sanitary environment is a basic necessity like air, water and food for aesthetic and psychological development of human beings.

This important programme was totally neglected in the past and full marks to Narendra Modi for caring about this basic necessity of human life and giving it a top priority in his future programme of developing India. Up to 1960’s carrying human excreta as head load was the thickest social stigma. Now open defecation has taken its place. Women go for nature’s call at night in the open and they are frequently preyed upon for molestation. Mr. Jairam Ramesh is right when he says “Railway tracks are the biggest toiletry in India”.

The coverage for use of in-house sanitary latrines varies from state to state, depending upon the percentage of BPL families.

Till now, the Government of India has not exhibited the blue print of the whole programe but a report in Hindustan Times dated 24-09-2014 suggests the cabinet has cleared the Swachh Bharat scheme which contains following features:

1)            The government will build individual toilets in 1.04 crore households and 5 lakh community/public toilets in urban areas.

2)            8.8 crore toilets in rural areas and majority of these to be provided in individual house holds.

It shows that the proposed Rs.1.0 lakh crore sanitation programme devotes only to providing sanitary latrines covering all the households in the country and improving solid waste management facilities in the urban areas. But the scope of the term total sanitation programme is much beyond the two aspects and includes seven important elements as given below:

1) Provision of 100 per cent sewerage and drainage system in all the urban towns together with innocuous disposal /recycling of the finally treated effluent for irrigation with total ban on discharge into the drains /rivers. As a matter of fact, effective sewerage system forms the backbone of urban sanitation.

2) 100 per cent solid waste management both in urban and rural areas and recycling of the final waste product.

3) 100 per cent coverage of the rural house-holds and slum areas with sanitary latrines.

4) All the open areas in urban and rural communities will be either paved or grassed. All the streets to be paved with concrete blocks or paver blocks.

5) Zero tolerance to dumping or littering of solid waste matter (mostly paper and plastic matter) both in urban and rural areas.

6) Zero tolerance to stagnation of sullage or any other waste water in urban or rural areas.

7) Daily brooming of streets, roads or public places both in rural and urban areas. The vacant plots to be provided with boundary walls and kept neat, clean and grassed.

It is obvious that accomplishment of this programme by 2019 is a onerous task and will require huge amount of funds. But it will definitely provide lot of employment opportunities and a big boost to Indian economy. If the nation accomplishes this programme by 2/10/2019, it will be a big feather in her cap and the whole nation will be truly shining and smiling both.

Execution of TSP will be done by the state agencies. The central government will only guide, facilitate and monitor the progress of the programme with partial funding. Therefore, it will be appropriate if the central government prepares a blueprint of this programme and then call a meeting of State Chief Ministers to hand over the blueprint to them to prepare rough cost estimates. A follow up meeting will give an approximate idea of the requirement of funds for the execution of the project. Meanwhile, the central government should set up a separate Ministry to sort out the financial and administrative issues and give a go ahead to the states to implement this programme by October 2019. First year should be used for financial planning, preparing technical sanction of the project and acquisition of land. Remaining four years should be used for execution under the watchful eye of the Central Ministry with a proper mechanism of monitoring and course corrections.

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CHALLENGES

TSP being an enormous programme covering entire length and breadth of the country is bound to face serious financial and administrative challenges as detailed below:

1) Financial challenges: India has 4,041 towns of varying sizes with population varying from 20,000 to 15 million. Besides this, towns are expanding disproportionately with time because of an accelerated process of rural migration to urban areas. Presently, 95 per cent towns are provided with partial sewerage, drainage and water supply systems. The cost of providing three services comes to Rs 5000 per person. Therefore, coverage of towns with 100 per cent services of sewerage, drainage and water supply will be monumental if not colossal. We have to include the cost of water supply system because the success of sewerage system depends upon providing a water supply network carrying 135 litres per capita per day.

Providing latrines in BPL households will also be a big financial burden. The cost of providing per unit per house will be Rs 12,500. Accordingly, 80 million BPL families will require an investment of Rs.1 lakh crore for which the families may not be ready to pay individually. Therefore, the government would have to shell out huge funds to meet this objective also. BPL families,at best can agree to meet 25 per cent cost.

Cost of solid waste management system will be around Rs 500 per person. Cost of paving of streets is also very high(in Haryana state, 90 per cent village streets have been paved with concrete blocks). Basically, provision of w/s, sewerage, drainage and solid waste management systems is a state subject but treasuries of most of the states are empty and they are surviving on loans and central grants. Therefore, once the PM asks the state chief ministers to implement the TSP, their instant response would be to provide them with necessary funds from the central pool. The central budget is already under heavy fiscal deficit. Therefore, the entire issue boils down to provisioning of adequate funds. PPP model is already failing and has become dicey because of the capricious attitude of the consumers not to pay the toll tax or service charges whereas a government is heavily on it. So a middle path needs to be explored. The Govt. of India has already set-up Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. The Mission provides funds to the states on equity basis and that too for limited number of bigger towns like Patna. Therefore, only way left for the states is to arrange funds from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and other donor agencies. So arrangement of required amount of funds will be a hurrculine task and requires great financial acumen and prudence to meet this challenge.

The Govt.of India in its affidavit to the Supreme Court on 22/9/2014 (PIL for Clean Ganga project) had stated that it will take 18 years to implement the total sanitation project in 118 identified towns and 1,650 panchayats and will reqire Rs 51,000 crore for the purpose. It is not known what view the Supreme Court will take but the implementation period of 18 years is not digestible. However, the statement gives a clue for the total requirement of funds for the TSP project covering whole of India.Going by this figure, the total cost of covering 4,041 towns and 4 lakh villages wil be whopping 35 lakh crore rupees.

2) Administrative challenges: These will be of three types as

given below:

1) Most towns have been provided with partial sewerage systems but very few have well designed sewage treatment plant (STPs). STPs and outfall channels carrying treated waste water will require use of public land. Acquisition of public land is a big problem these days because of stringent provision of the new

Land Acquisition Act. So timely acquisition of land is a big challenge for the administration.

2) In market areas, the land between the shopping line and the edge of the road has considerable width. Paving this area involves huge cost. Theoretically, shopkeepers should pave this area because they use this land for the sake of their customers. One does not know if they will agree to pave the entire width. The situation in residential areas is almost similar with the difference that the width can be grassed instead of being paved. Therefore, the state government will have to formulate an implementable policy in this regard. Likewise the state government will have to pass an order to direct plot holders to provide boundary walls along the perimeters of their vacant plots and keep the vacant space neat, clean and green. The urban development authority can be more harsh in asking the plot holders to ensure 25 per cent completion of their plots within an early specified period.

3) Location of solid waste management plant is more difficult. Seeking environment clearance from the State Environment Authority is not as big a problem as the dealing protests from villagers is. A proper and clean technology/methodology for degradation and recycling of solid waste has not been developed so far in India. The existing plants emit unbearable foul smells during the rainy season and on the windy days. You can feel this nuisance by standing at Karnal bypass in Delhi during the rainy season. The problem in bigger cities is all the more intractable as the space for dumping solid waste at existing location is reducing day by day because the recycling process has not been taken up simultaneously. The experiment of using solid waste for power generation has not met with desired success. Location of new solid waste plant at the outer periphery requires long distance transportation. The process of composting solid waste at the source in bigger houses (350 sq.mtr or more) has not been initiated yet. Recycling technology for paper and plastic waste too has not been developed so far. So acquisition of land for solid waste treatment and disposal plants with the concurrence of farmers is a very big issue being faced by Municipal Corporation.

4) Once the mechanism of funding and acquisition of land is set aside, the Central Ministry for TSP will have to develop an administrative model whereby the funds reach the states and the states monitor back the progress to the ministry. The real issue is how to fix the Executing Agency at the state levels. The w/s, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management, paving of streets and providing sanitary latrines in Haryana state are executed by different government agencies like Municipal Corporations, Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and Department of Panchayats. It will be difficult to set up an entirely new body to execute all projects under seven points programme (mentioned earlier) because recruitment of staff will become a very big issue. The second option is to set up an authority at the state head quarters. The Managing Director of this authority should be a senior IAS officers. The authority should have its staff of senior engineers and administrative officers at the state level.

This authority should be entrusted the job of co-coordinating the work with different concerned departments for timely execution of projects. This authority will also distribute the funds to different executing agencies and provide monitoring feedbacks to the Central Ministry.

CONCLUSION

To sum up the issue, TSP is a wonderful programme which was long overdue. It can be accomplished by October 2019 provided the Government of India develops an effective financial model and deploys efficient administrative machinery to execute this program. The issue of arranging funds to the tune of Rs. 35 lakh crore is the most challenging task. Once the funds are arranged, administrative challenges can be managed adequately under the dynamic leadership of the Prime Minister. But once the programme is implemented in totality, the achievement will be recorded in the annals of history in golden letters and

the Prime Minister will occupy a place in the galaxy of great statesmen of the world. India will be shining like other developed nations. Virtually it will be a new born India free from the encumbrances of dehumanising insanitary life, communicable diseases and the tag of an underdeveloped nation.

Therefore, an investment of Rs. 35 lakh crore over a period of five years is worth making for this grand mega project. This heavy investment will give a great boost to economic growth and open vast avenues for employment generation. Even otherwise sanitation is next to Divinity/Godliness. Success of this programme will bring name and fame to India the way MOM has given on 24-09-2014. It is the duty of every citizen to help the government to make this programme a grand success.

 

By Ram Niwas Malik

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