Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: A Note Thus Far

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: A Note Thus Far

Swachhata in our times and in Gandhian thought

The most striking thing one observes when one is travelling to developed countries like Germany, Japan, Singapore, etc. is how remarkably clean and well-maintained their public infrastructure is. Since provision of amenities and facilities does not ensure automatic maintenance, one wonders how does one sustain it. 
After the football match against Columbia in FIFA World Cup 2018, Japanese fans stayed behind to collect rubbish in plastic bags they had brought with them. Video clips of this went viral on social media and Twitter exploded with applause for this thoughtful gesture. In Japan, sanitation and cleanliness are habits inculcated right from formative years and practiced in daily lives. Hygiene and sanitation have to be a lived practice rather than a massive one-time drive. 
This is not a novel realization as it was the Mahatma who put the greatest emphasis on this point in his time and life. For Gandhiji, independence meant not only self-rule but also self-management. Personal hygiene has a bearing on political hygiene. 


Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a pan-India cleanliness and sanitation drive initiated by the Government of India in 2014. Drawing inspiration from Gandhiji’s vision, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan desires to bring about a sustainable and improved condition of sanitation, waste management and reduction of our negative impact on the environment. Some of the goals of SBM-Urban include making Indian cities and towns Open Defecation Free (ODF), building more public and community toilets and employing scientific management of waste. By design, it is meant to be a collaborative effort between govt. bodies, citizens, private sector, NGOs, SHGs and other stakeholders. With this project, India is showing its commitment towards bringing transformative changes in the lives of its people.

Swachh Survekshan 2021

In its 6th edition, Swachh Surveskshan 2021, commissioned by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) and carried out by Quality Council of India (QCI), is the largest annual cleanliness, hygiene and  sanitation survey in the world. It was launched with the objective of generating large scale citizen participation, awareness creation and inculcating a  spirit of healthy

inter-city competition among participating cities. Since its inception, the survey has witnessed exponential year-over-year growth in terms of participants and scale. Survekshan began with 73 cities in 2016 and subsequently got extended to 434 ULBs across various cities in 2017, 4203 ULBs in 2018, 4237 ULBs in 2019 and 4242 ULBs in 2020.

Some initiatives and their impacts

  • Under SBM-U, various initiatives have been taken by ULBs to generate awareness and provide incentives to citizens: ‘Bring plastic waste and get a delicious full free meal’, ‘Apna Jhola Layega, Paryavaran ko Bachayega’, etc.
  • Following the 3R principle, recyclable waste is recycled into useful artefacts and such products are provided platforms like Eco Marts.
  • Dhule’s (Maharashtra) Municipal Corporation took out a mass rally of 1600+ people (students, local residents, health officials, etc.) to clean the burgeoning volume of solid waste dumped in Panzara river. 35+ tonnes of plastic waste was removed. To ensure sustainability of cleanliness, GVP along the length of river were removed. 
  • Swachhata App – is an application launched by MoHUA for civic level grievances. For example, an individual may click photos of GVP, geo-tag and upload it on the app. This will alert the civic body authority who will do the needful.
  • Swachh Manch – is a web-based platform to bring stakeholders together. It allows them to create events and to network and upload pictorial evidences of events and initiatives. This is also linked to Swachhata App.
  • PPE kits have been made available to sanitary workers, including informal rag pickers.
  • Additionally, they have been linked to at least 3 different govt. schemes such as National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporations (NSKFDC), Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Life Insurance, National Urban Livelihood Mission, etc.
  • Mobile collection unit is made available within reasonable distance of Bulk and non-Bulk Waste generator to come and deposit Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste. 


Concluding Thought

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis. It has a deep impact on the way we perceive and live our lives. The silver lining is that it has brought hygiene and sanitation from an afterthought to a primary consideration. With the compulsory use of PPE kits by frontline health workers and those in the sanitation field, we can witness some of the benefits of SBM’s initiatives such as provision of the said PPE kits paying off.  In mainstream consciousness, this year made us realize the importance of segregation of solid waste into various categories, especially those categorised under hazardous waste – gloves, masks, PPE kits, etc. They can be a massive source of viral transmission if not disposed of properly. Sanitation workers engaged in this work are unsung heroes and we express our highest gratitude to them. We are optimistic for a bigger and better Swachh Survekshan 2021 with a larger number of ULBs expected to participate this year despite the challenges posed by Covid.

- H. Brian Singson