Sanitation and hygiene are crucial aspects of living; especially when it comes to the masses. India has a huge population. The majority of its population resides in rural areas. These rural areas lack basic amenities of living and hygiene. Lack of basic amenities hampers the quality of living. Especially, when it comes to sanitation, the rural people lack toilets and thus, have to defecate in the open grounds. Open defecation proves to be a breeding ground for many infections and diseases, which can even prove to be fatal.
Habits play an important role in keeping the surroundings clean. It is not just the lack of toilets, but also the habits of the people. people in the rural areas have become habituated to open defecation, and even when provided with toilets to use, they chose to defecate in the open. It is also because of a lack of knowledge and awareness. Hence, it becomes important to not just build toilets, but also to aware people about the health issues related to improper sanitation due to open defecation.
To maintain sanitation and prevent any health issues due to lack of sanitation, the government proposed the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
What is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched on 2nd October 2014, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. It focuses on the achievement of universal sanitation. This campaign or janandolan had a nationwide approach and also aimed at open defecation-free India, focusing especially on the rural. From 2014 to 2019, the focus was on the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets. Monitoring of construction and usage of these toilets was also taken care of.
The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was chosen as the day to launch the mission, as Mahatma Gandhi was concerned and conscious about India’s sanitation. He even once said, “Sanitation is more important than independence.” The idea of a clean India with a proper sanitation system took its initial shape from there, and hence, 2nd October makes the best day for the mission launch.
By 2nd October 2019, in India, all the villages, gram panchayats, districts, states, and union territories declared themselves as “open defecation free”, by constructing over 100 million toilets in the rural parts of India, under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
The mission then upgraded to its next phase ‘Phase II’ of Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) i.e., ODP-Plus. This phase was upgraded to ensure that the open defecation-free habit sustains and there is proper access to safe liquid and solid waste management in villages.
Since 2nd October 2014, more than 10,20,00, household toilets have been constructed; there are 6,03,175 open defecation free villages; 706 open defecation free villages 36 open defecation free states and union territories, and about 63.3% of the rural population is practicing Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) under Open Defecation Free (OPD) Plus. There has also been an increase in household toilets since 2nd October 2014 and 2,62,734 gram panchayats were declared open defecation free. The construction of toilets not only provided the people especially of rural areas with proper sanitation but also an equal level of basic social amenities.