To realize Mahatama Gandhi’s dream of a clean India, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government launched “Swachh Bharat Mission” on October 2, 2014, with an aim to stop open defecation and promote cleanliness in the society. The programme looks to accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to achieve the vision of Swachh Bharat by October 2, 2019, the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Though Swachh Bharat may have started on a high note, but cleaning up the country is serious and difficult business.
According to latest data, rural India will need to drastically accelerate the pace of building toilets to realise the dreams of a clean India.
Over the past 16 months, the programme has tasted success with rural sanitation going up from 42.05 per cent in October 2014, to 49.29 per cent in January 2016.
Data shows that Rajasthan has taken the lead in toilet building with a 20.40 per cent rise, followed by Manipur (14.05) and Meghalaya (14.59). Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Puducherry and Kerala haven’t made any progress in these 16 months.
In terms of rural India’s overall toilet coverage, Sikkim leads the nation with a 99.72 per cent covered area, followed by Kerala (96.31 per cent) and Himachal Pradesh (94.43 per cent). At the bottom of the list were states like Odisha (21 per cent), Bihar (23.62 per cent), and J&K (31.60 per cent).
Data also shows that out of India’s 6,12,157 villages, only 39,309 have been declared open defecation free (ODF). The list is lead by Himachal Pradesh (9,684), West Bengal (8,079), and Maharashtra (5,322). Goa, Kerala and Puducherry haven’t claimed even one village on that list.
However, at the current rate, a large part of the country may remain without toilet access by 2019.
A large chunk of population still goes outside to relieve themselves. They thus expose their children to bacterial infectios and women to risks of violence. People are repulsed by the idea of having a toilet in their houses. Through toilet building and behavioural changes, Modi government’s target is to ensure zero open defecation by 2019.
Open air defecation, lack of general sanitation and hygiene leads to various diseases, especially diarrhea and intestinal infections and also typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, polio, trachoma and other diseases.
Open air defecation is also a major cause of diarrheal deaths. In 2014, a report by WHO found out that death of children up-to five years is approximately 2,000 per day from diarrhea, which makes it a prime salient killer.