In 2015, a UNICEF Report mentioned that as many as 524 million (52.4 crore) people in India are forced to defecate in open due to lack of sanitation infrastructure. Another 2015 report by UNICEF and World Health Organization also classified country’s progress in reducing open defecation as “moderate” and cited that in India there has been “very little change in last 20 years”.
Please take a moment to process this information and its enormity. Most of us who are privileged enough to be reading this article in English on our laptop or smartphone may not even realize that even after 67 years of independence, 52 crore people or more than 60% of our population did not have access to basic amenities like toilets.
Thankfully, Modi government decided to address this issue head-on and started building sanitation infrastructure in mission mode. Government’s relentless focus under Swachh Bharat Mission ensured that sanitation coverage started improving dramatically year after year. As per the data from Economic Survey 2017-18, only 39% population had access to toilets in 2014. By January 2018, this number had rapidly surged to 76%.
By the time of writing this article in July 2018, the sanitation coverage is about to touch 90%. Swachh Bharat Mission by Government of India has so far delivered remarkable progress in just 4 years –
- 78 million (7.8 crores) toilets constructed
- 4 lakh Villages, 417 districts and 19 States / Union Territories declared Open Defecation Free
As per the data are shown above, more toilets were built in 4 years of current BJP government than in 67 years of all previous governments. Status and progress of this project can be tracked in real time on Swachh Bharat Mission dashboard
In another associated initiative, Railway Ministry has installed 1,25,000 bio-toilets in train coaches. Fitted under the train lavatories, they prevent human waste from falling onto the tracks. Jointly developed by engineers of Indian Railways and DRDO, these are modern technology mechanisms which convert human waste into water and gases. Gases are released into the atmosphere and only water is discharged onto tracks. This initiative will go a long way in improving the hygiene and cleanliness of railway tracks across the country.
The planned target of Swachh Bharat Mission is to make India 100% Open Defecation Free by October 2019. If the project continues progressing as planned, then by next year, India would have provided sanitation infrastructure to its entire population. After 100% village electrification, it would be another feather in the cap for Modi government and a huge milestone in resolving another grass-root problem affecting India.