“If we do not keep our backyards clean, our Swaraj will have a foul stench.”
For the Father of our Nation, sanitation was critically important. His views and teachings on sanitation, a part of the Gandhian way of sustainable living, were targeted at both individuals and society.
With this as a guiding force, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan on 2nd October 2014 as a nation-wide cleanliness movement to create greater awareness and provide sanitation facilities to households across the country.
The mega campaign aimed at a holistic solution to sanitation, which includes toilets, solid waste disposal systems, cleanliness and safe and adequate drinking water supply to every single family by 2nd October 2019 as a befitting tribute on the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary.
The Government works in collaboration with local institutions, corporates, NGOs, media and key stakeholders in keeping with the PM’s view that Swachhata must be everyone’s business and not only that of the sanitation departments, echoing Gandhi’s view that ‘everyone must be his own scavenger’.
A host of special initiatives and projects like Swachhata Action Plan, Swachhata Pakhwada, Swachh Swasth Sarvatra, Swachh Vidyalaya and Anganwadi Sanitation have been launched to promote sanitation.
Specifically, the Swachh Bharat campaign set out to achieve a clean and Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2nd October 2019 by:
As a result of such initiatives since 2014, more than 10 crore household toilets have been built. Almost 6 lakh villages have been freed of open defecation and 35 UTs/States and 699 districts have been declared ODF. The achievements within just five years are laudable.
As India’s leading industry association, CII has been working very closely with the Government to promote public health and sanitation.
The CII Foundation (CIIF) launched the mission ‘Sanitation in Schools (SOS)’ to support the Swachh Bharat initiative.
As part of this initiative, CIIF has been engaging with industry, communities and local administration to undertake various initiatives, including on-ground measures such as the construction of toilets, pan India. The Foundation partnered with the Uttar Pradesh Government and undertook construction of 1005 household toilets in 11 villages in Fatehpur district.
CIIF also joined forces with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for construction of 15 pre-fabricated public toilets in and around select railways stations across cities including Mumbai, Varanasi, Jammu, Katra, Amritsar, New Delhi, Vijayawada, and Lucknow. In addition, construction of 17 public toilets was facilitated by CIIF in Delhi NCR.
The main challenge, however, is not in the construction of the toilet. In remote areas and slums where people are used to ‘open air’ for waste disposal, awareness about the perils of open-air defecation must be stressed. To achieve this, CIIF has undertaken behaviour change interventions across Delhi, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Mumbai and Jammu & Kashmir, reaching out to more than 20,300 beneficiaries.
Amongst many other initiatives, the Phenk Mat campaign in Mumbai was initiated by CII and CIIF in partnership with the State Government, Mumbai Municipal Corporation and Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. It engages citizens, especially youth, for behavioral change, aiming at reducing littering to promote cleanliness, thereby making them lifelong emissaries for anti-littering behavior.
CII stresses green chemistry to promote the Swachh Bharat mission. Eco-friendly processes offer sustainable solutions to some of the Government initiatives such as Smart Cities and the Clean Ganga project. Modern technologies and water treatment chemicals can offer cost-effective, long-term solutions to wastewater problems in India.
Another initiative towards Swachh Bharat mission taken up by CII along with volunteers from member companies was the clean-up drive at Juhu Beach in 2017; it also undertakes cleanliness drives through volunteering weeks on a regular basis.
It is imperative to remember that adequate and appropriate sanitation facilities are essential for the socio-economic development of the country. Today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders, employers and resources and such basic amenities will produce a healthy workforce.
Cleanliness is critical to health and well-being of citizens and a crucial driver of productivity and economic growth; thus, it is important to create awareness about it. Sanitation is not only the responsibility of the local Government, it is the responsibility of all Indians.
Swachh Bharat is indeed the call of the hour and everyone should actively participate to clean India for a healthy and sustainable future.
As the Mahatma rightly said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”