The last few days the demonetization debate has led to a sharp demarcation amongst the Indian population as to whether the move will indeed lead to the country’s development or not. The government ‘bhakts’ and the detractors are at loggerheads and presenting various facts and theories to justify their choices.
While the true justification requires a sound knowledge of economics, my presence at the Global Toilet Conference organized by the Toilet Board Coalition in conjunction with CII showed me there are still very basic issues without solving which we should not even dream ourselves as calling us ‘developed’ or even ‘developing’.
Just digest these facts.
- $54bn Indian GDP is lost every year due to lack of sanitation
- 200,000 deaths every year owing to basically lack of toilets and poor awareness of personal feminine hygiene
- 18% of Indian households still lack toilets
- 12% of Indian population still defecate in the open
- 40% of toilets in Indian schools are in various states of disrepair (either no water or no doors)
- 60% dropouts amongst girls once they reach puberty (no toilet doors and no provision in schools to change sanitary pads)
Reading these, I am sure, should make us all hang our heads in shame, be it the ‘bhakts’ or the detractors of the government. Seems female emancipation in India is still a distant mirage until and unless the toilet issue is not sorted out at the earliest.
The Mission Details
In this context, the Swachh Bharat Mission driven by the PM Modi from October 2, 2014 assumes special significance. Slated to be completed in 5 years by October 2, 2019 this program has at least embarked on correcting the course of action. But as in Robert Frost’s words , “There are miles to go, before…”
The mission aims to cover 1.04 crore households, provide 2.5 lakh community toilets, 2.6 lakh public toilets, and a solid waste management facility in each town. Under the programme, community toilets will be built in residential areas where it is difficult to construct individual household toilets. Public toilets will also be constructed in designated locations such as tourist places, markets, bus stations, railway stations, etc. The programme will be implemented over a five-year period in 4,401 towns.
The total assistance available for construction of an individual toilet is Rs 4000 from the Central Government and an amount of Rs 1333 at least from the State Government. However in the case of the North East States, the states are required to contribute only Rs 400 per individual toilet. However, there is no bar on releasing any extra funds at any stage by the ULB/State Government through additional resources.
The expected assistance for construction of community toilets – Central Government will contribute upto 40% of the cost of construction of community toilet as a VGF/ outright grant. As per SBM guidelines, the States/UTs shall provide an additional 13.33% for the said component. The NE and special category states shall be required to contribute 4% only. The balance shall have to be arranged through innovative mechanisms by the urban local body. The approximate cost per seat for a community toilet is Rs 65,000/-.
Rs 62,009 crore is likely to be spent on the programme. Of this, the Centre will pitch in Rs 14,623 crore. Of the Centre’s share of Rs 14,623 crore, Rs 7,366 crore will be spent on solid waste management, Rs 4,165 crore on individual household toilets, Rs 1,828 crore on public awareness and Rs 655 crore on community toilets.
video credit: Sulabh International
According to Saurabh Jain, Director Ministry of Urban Development and Additional Director, Swachh Bharat Mission, since Oct 2, 2014 268.83 lakh toilets have been built, with 14.87% increase in households with toilets. In 2016-17 only, 9375005 toilets have been built and 11,7771 villages have been declared Open Defecation Free this year. The results have started pouring in too, with more than 40% increase in enrolment of girls in schools after toilets were built and repaired.
Some states with more than 70% toilet deployment have been on the forefront of the sanitation revolution. These include smaller states like Kerala, Himachal, Sikkim, Haryana and even larger ones like West Bengal and Punjab. Unfortunately the usual suspects are still lagging behind with Bihar, Odisha and J&K at less than 40% and UP, MP, Andhra, Telangana and Jharkhand at barely 40%. No wonder, states like UP had witnessed incidents like rape and murder of the Badaun sisters who had gone out for defecation only.
However as India tries to make itself completely open defecation free by the year 2019, the biggest stumbling blocks are not the lack of enough toilets, or accessories like water and electricity connections, but the difficulty in convincing people to start using toilets. The reasons are varied — personal, traditional, cultural. Some even say that the morning cleansing in the open is a time for socializing. For many it is just a habit that they have grown up with, and access to a new toilet is not a compelling reason to change that habit.
Says Jain, “Our main aim is not to construct more and more toilets. Rather, we are focusing on usage of toilets, making villages Open Defecation Free (ODF) and then keeping them as such. Of course, this can’t happen if there are no toilets in a village. Infrastructure has to be built. But our work doesn’t end there. A lot of our effort is going into ensuring that villages that have become ODF do not slide back into old habits. And that requires our continued engagement,” he adds.
The Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) has been set up to facilitate and channelize individual philanthropic contributions and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to achieve the objective of Clean India (Swachh Bharat) by the year 2019. The Kosh will be used to achieve the objective of improving cleanliness levels in rural and urban areas, including in schools. The allocation from the Kosh will be used to supplement and complement departmental resources for such activities. To incentivise contributions from individuals and corporate, modalities are being considered to provide tax rebates where it is possible.