Our country is standing at the cusp of transformative change and we have a huge opportunity to transform rural India. We are certainly heading in the right direction, with all the right moves, given that today the IMIS of the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G), the flagship programme of the Government of India, recorded another milestone – of 101462villages declaring themselves as ODF (open defecation free) Plus. These villages are sustaining their ODF status and have systems in place for managing solid and/or liquid waste and they would continue on their sanitation journey as they work towards making their villages cleaner, greener and healthier. Almost eight years ago, Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission from the ramparts of the Red Fort, with a vision to make the country open defecation free as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. Under his visionary leadership, the country came together in the world’s largest behaviour change campaign and achieved its aim,and on 2nd October 2019, 11 years ahead of the SDG-6 target set by the United Nations, rural India became open defecation free. However, this was not the end of the mission, it laid the foundation to take on a much more challenging, yet necessary task; the need to ensure sampoornswachhata or complete cleanliness, to make the country’s villages ODF Plus. One lakh ODF Plus villages is no small achievement, given that the process of solid and liquid waste management is technical in nature, is relatively new to rural India and is a second-generation issue. Provision of toilets has led to the need to manage faecal waste. Also, with potable water supply, more greywater is being generated that needs to be treated and reused; and with lifestyle changes and the use of packaged food products, the menace of plastic waste is rearing its ugly head in rural areas and that needs to be managed effectively. And this is what the second Phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G) is about – to appropriately manage all types of waste that will not only make our villages clean, but also creating avenues for generating incomes for rural households and creating new livelihood opportunities, while fulfilling the requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SBM-G reinforces the Government’s commitment to promote hygiene and safe sanitation and thereby improve the quality of life of its citizens. At the outset, DDWS had introduced intermediate stages in the process of declaring a village as ODF Plus, given that all villages may not fulfil all criteria under the verticals of biodegradable waste management (BWM), plastic waste management (PWM), greywater management (GWM) and faecal sludge management (FSM) before declaring a village as ODF Plus. In the ODF Plus – Aspiring category today are 54734villages in which all households and institutions besides having access to sanitation through individual household latrines, have arrangements for either SWM or LWM; those in ODF Plus – Rising are 17121 villages which have arrangements for both LWM and SWM in addition to the criteria in Aspiring. Those that are declared ODF Plus – Model are 29607 villages which have all the above and where IEC messages are prominently disseminated and displayed. This also translates into 99640 villages across the country having arrangements for solid waste management; 78937having liquid waste management facilities; and 57312villages having both functional solid and liquid waste management plants. The top five performing states are Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradeshwhere maximum number of villages have been declared as ODF Plus.
All possible assistance is being given to States in the form of funding, technical and capacity building support.
Availability of adequate funding: The Government of India, in February 2020, approved Phase-II of the SBM (G) with a total outlay of Rs. 1,40,881 crores to focus on the sustainability of Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM). SBM (G) Phase-II is planned to be a unique model of convergence between different verticals of financing and various schemes of Central and State Governments. Funds are also available through the 15th Finance Commission and through convergence with MGNREGA.
Technical Support: Extensive focus is being given to strengthening the capacities of a range of key stakeholders at State, district, block and panchayat levels to ensure effective and expedited implementation. DDWS has made available reference materials pertaining to the programme’s approach and processes, with technical specifications, technology options, cost estimates, technical drawings etc., for various elements of ODF Plus in the form of technical manuals and toolkits which States have been translating into their vernacular languages. The manuals would go a long way towards building capacities of functionaries and rural local bodies.
Capacity building: Management of solid and liquid waste and related infrastructure is technical in nature and for building capacities of the GP level stakeholders, a large pool of trainers is required. As a part of this initiative, 5-day Training of Trainers (ToTs) on the implementation of SBM (G) II in the states is being carried out by the DDWS with the support of development partner UNICEF. Under this, Master Trainers (MTs) from each district,are being trained and they in turn are trainingSarpanchs/Pradhans, village secretaries and Swachhagrahisin the various ODF Plus verticals.
SBM-G continues to be a people’s movement: All along, SBM (G) Phase-II had been uniquely designed to leverage the capacity of individuals and communities in rural India to create a people’s movement to ensure that the ODF status of rural areas is sustained, people continue to practice safe hygienic behaviour and that all villages have solid and liquid waste management arrangements. In this regard, the contributions of both men and women in the village communities have been immense. Either as Swachhagrahis, Mistries, drivers or Green Ambassadors, they continue to work for ODF Plus. We have our share of unsung heroes too:
Saying NO to stubble burning, Ajmer Singh, afarmer of Sehbajpur villagein Raikot block of Ludhiana district in Punjab has successfully installed a biogas plant which utilizes crop residue and cow dung as feed to generate biogas, within his household premises. The family of 3 now avails of 3-4 cum per day of clean cooking fuel and organic compost for their fields, free of cost. Meanwhile, when Smt. Richhawati, an active community leader and SHG member heard that the community biogas plant sanctioned for their Gram Panchayat (GP) in 2021-22 was being shelved owing to non-availability of community land and inadequate finance, she donated 2500 square feet of land that she owned for the project that would cater to the clean fuel needs of the community. The woman’s magnanimous gesture has set the wheels in motion for the construction of the Gobardhan plant that is now located in Salmatta GP in Sitarganj Block of Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand. I also salute the Swachhagrahis – the frontline workers who go by different names in each State, who are versatile enough to take on responsibilities to promote awareness and get people to participate in waste management. Lots more to be done in the next three years…but I’m confident that the great people of this country will join hands to make a Swachh and Swasth Bharat a reality.
(The author is Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government Of India. Press Information Bureau Srinagar has mailed this article to “Kashmir Horizon” for publication in this newspaper. Views are her own)