The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) is a campaign initiated by the Indian government to clean the country’s roads, streets, and other unkempt public infrastructure. Prime minister Narendra Modi launched the cleaning campaign at Rajghat, New Delhi on October 2, 2014 – the date was chosen to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a cleaner and healthier India.

Image credit: Flickr
Image credit: Flickr

Considered India’s biggest national cleanliness drive, the prime minister kick-started the campaign by cleaning the road himself, in the presence of his party men, supporters, government employees, students, etc. PM Modi then nominated 9 famous Indian personalities to take the mission forward. The nominated people must nominate 9 more individuals each and so on, helping branch out the cause.

Features

  • The project is expected to cost more than $9.4 billion.
  • Firms such as the Mahindra Group, Tata Consulting Services have vowed to build more than 3,000 fresh toilets. Approximately 70 public sector firms have also pledged to construct close to 86,000 new toilets.
  • The World Bank and several Indian state governments have also promised to fund the initiative.

Objectives

  • The ‘Clean India’ vision aims to have a cleaner India by October 2, 2019, within five years from launch. 
  • Building new public toilets and maintaining existing ones. Erecting a toilet facility in every rural household falling under the poverty line, thereby eliminating open defecation. The plan entails building 120 million toilets in Indian villages by October 2019, which is to cost $30 billion.
  • City-based public toilets will be built in or near areas such as markets, tourist places, railway stations, bus terminals, etc.
  • Eradication of manual scavenging or the technique of removing human excretory materials using tin plates and brooms.
  • Exclusive sanitation facilities for women and complete village sanitation courtesy the building of soakage pits, drains, and liquid and solid waste disposal systems.
  • A behavioral transformation and awareness in people with regard to healthy sanitation and the impacts on public health.
  • Inviting private firm investments in the setting up, operation and maintenance of public sanitary facilities.

Criticism and Development

Many believe Swachh Bharat isn’t a new campaign, but merely a rechristened version of a past national sanitation program called Central Rural Sanitation Programme (1986). The initiative was later called Total Sanitation Campaign (1999) and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (2012).

As per some third-party sources, the newly built public toilets in rural Uttar Pradesh have not been accepted or used by villagers. The lack of proper waste management is one among the reasons. Also, most villagers are accustomed to excreting in the fields and therefore feel suffocated inside the confined toilet space.