With the launch of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) on October 2, 2014, on the 145th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India began its journey towards making cleanliness a part of daily life.
Gandhi once said, “Sanitation is more important than Independence.” His passion for cleanliness goes back to his days in South Africa (1893-1914). The Indian community then was not known for keeping houses and surroundings clean. Gandhi wished to change this perception and worked with the community to take voluntary measures to maintain cleanliness.
Gandhi’s vision for a clean country had three aspects, viz. hygiene, Swaraj, and abolishing untouchability. During one of his speeches at Mandvi, Gujarat, Gandhi said, “During my wanderings, nothing has been so painful to me as to observe our insanitation throughout the length and breadth of the land.”
For Gandhi, Independence and hygiene were intertwined. In one of his articles published in Young India, he wrote, “All the religions in the world prohibit the pollution of streams, their banks, public roads, and all thoroughfares. This pollution is a sin born of ignorance or laziness.”
Seventy-five years post-Independence, cleanliness has moved on to new levels owing to economic progress, technological revolution, and massive urbanisation. Taking a cue from Gandhi’s idea of cleanliness, the Swachh Bharat Mission is multidimensional in its approach and aims to build a ‘Clean India’ via waste collection, segregation and management, clean water and air, e-waste management, and universal sanitation coverage through community engagement.
Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, 107.1 million toilets have been constructed, making more than 603 thousand villages and 711 districts free of open defecation to date. The Jal Jeevan Mission sets a target of providing safe and adequate drinking water through tap connections to all rural households by 2024. Tap connections have been installed in more than 50 million households since the launch of the mission.
The Government is also working on cleaning India’s rivers through projects like Namami Gange (National Mission for Clean Ganga). With a budget outlay of INR 200 billion, the project work on the abatement of pollution in rivers and their conservation and rejuvenation is underway. The project covers areas such as sewage treatment infrastructure, river-surface cleaning, river-front development, industrial effluent monitoring, and biodiversity, among others. So far, 158 projects, have been completed, out of the 346 projects taken up under the mission.
The Government is also carrying out a massive drive for appropriate waste management. As a part of the initiative, steps have been taken for door-to-door collection of waste, segregation of dry and wet waste, etc. and the efforts have resulted in 100% door-to-door waste collection in 85,209 wards, covering 4,520 cities.
India is working to phase out single-use plastic by 2022 through the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, and Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021. It is also trying to strengthen waste management infrastructure in states/UTs through the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Electronic waste or e-waste has now become a matter of concern for the world as well. The Government’s E-waste (Management) Rules 2016, enacted in 2017 and further amended in 2018, mandate companies that produce or sell electronic equipment to ensure under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) that the weight of the e-waste collected on a yearly basis amounts to at least 10% of the total quantity of waste generated by them, with a 10% increase every year till 2023.
The CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (CII-Godrej GBC) also contributes to the cause by offering a voluntary rating to e-waste recyclers.
Air pollution is another issue being addressed under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aims to reduce the Particulate Matter concentrations by 20-30% by 2024, and 122 cities have been identified based on the air quality data from 2014-2018. CII, too, through its Crop Residue Management (CRM) Project, under the umbrella of the Cleaner Air, Better Life Initiative, has been addressing the issue of stubble burning to address the air quality in northern India.
The Clean India mission won’t be accomplished without mass participation and community engagement. As we commemorate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, let’s come forward and join the movement to turn Gandhi’s vision of cleanliness into a reality.