The government of India got yet another shot in the arm on Monday, October 1, 2018, when the World Bank heaped praise on Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission. The World Bank termed it the ‘biggest sanitation movement’ in the world. Giving full credit to PM Modi for spearheading the Swachh Bharat mission, the vice president of the World Bank South-East Asia region, Hartwig Schafer, said that it is not just a sanitation programme. “It is a growth mission,” he said.
These remarks from the World Bank came just a day before India commemorated Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth anniversary. In order to give a boost to the Swachh Bharat mission, the Indian government ran a campaign ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ from September 15th, 2018 to October 2nd, 2018 in order to intensify their efforts in improving sanitation coverage. The Indian government will now be looking towards paying a fitting tribute to Bapu by achieving 100% open defecation free(ODF) status by next Gandhi Jayanti.
Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director, while addressing a convention on sanitation, said, “When you see the progress we have made to reduce open defecation and ensure that everyone has access to improved sanitation, it is hard to believe that just a few years ago, the word open defecation was a taboo. But countries like India have broken that silence and made open defecation free (ODF) a political priority.”
Since the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission on 2nd October 2014, India has progressed leaps & bounds in providing access to sanitation. As per government reports, India housed more than 60% of the world’s total population that practised open defecation until 2014 & today the number has come down significantly as more than 9 crore households across the country have been provided with sanitation facilities. 25 states have been declared ODF whereas 100% sanitation coverage is achieved in 521 districts so far. As of April 2018, Indian Railways had installed 1,25,000 bio-toilets as a part of the associated initiative to Swachh Bharat mission. However, UNICEF executive director, Henrietta H Fore, cautioned that building toilets aren’t enough, it is equally important to ensure that people are using those toilets.
World Bank is associated with the Mission, as it has extended a loan of $1,500 million for projects under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) [(SBM(G)].
A few months back, World Health Organisation (WHO) had similar words of praise for Modi government for achieving 89% rural sanitation coverage which was able to prevent 3 lacs deaths caused by sanitation related issues between 2014 to 2018. Last year, in its assessment of the Indian Economy, International Monetary Fund (IMF) had acknowledged the contribution of Swachh Bharat mission in improving access to sanitation for raising gender equality in India.
The Mission has won accolades from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also. Gates congratulated Indian government for “shining a light on sanitation”, saying now India must build on the success of Swachh Bharat Mission by using innovations and technology to improve sewage processing capabilities and generate zero waste.