Initiative to improve sanitation gaining ground
Access to improved sanitation is a basic amenity. But the 2011 Census revealed that only 31.2 percent of rural households had access to toilet facilities. The baseline survey conducted in 2012-13 by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation showed a little improvement on coverage of rural households which stood at 38.76 percent. Till October 1, 2014, the coverage increased to 42.01 percent.
With the formation of a new government at the Centre, greater priority has been given to sanitation. The Swacch Bharat Mission was launched on October 2, 2014, as a part of this endeavour. The focus is on increasing sanitation coverage by providing individual household latrines (IHHLs) and public and community toilets. Financial assistance for the construction of a single IHHL unit in rural areas has been increased to Rs. 12,000 from Rs.10,000 under the previous UPA government’s Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan. Provisions for the IHHL include water storage attached to sanitation facilities and hand wash. Moreover, a sub-group of chief ministers was formed to analyse the current situation and prepare an action plan that seeks to achieve open defecation free status by October 2, 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
After the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the coverage of households has shown tremendous progress. In 2014-15 from April 1 to October 1, only 9 lakh IHHLs were constructed. After the launch of the Mission (in the later part of the year) 49 lakh IHHLs were constructed. In 2015-16, 127 lakh IHHLs were constructed when the mission picked up pace. The rapid pace of construction of IHHLs shows the government’s will and effort towards fulfilling its mission. The construction of 1.76 crore Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) has been reported under the mission, which resulted from the increase in the coverage of households with IHHL to 51.76 percent by March 2016. Since the launch of the programme, there has been an improvement of around 10 percentage points in 18 months which is far better than the 11 percentage points improvement from 2011 to October 1, 2014. Few states have performed exceptionally well by covering additional households with sanitation facility viz. Rajasthan (24.41 percent), Meghalaya (18.52 percent), Arunachal Pradesh (17.31 percent), Gujarat (17.02 percent), Manipur (16.81 percent) and Odisha (16.06 percent).
As per baselines survey conducted by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha contributed 54.69 percent of total open defecation in the country on March 1, 2013. This figure has actually increased to 58.70 percent in March 2016. However, the number of uncovered households in these five states has also come down from 6.07 crore to 5.13 crore.
As stated above, Rajasthan and Odisha have performed well under the Mission. Even Madhya Pradesh has increased its coverage by 10.89 percent since the launch of the programme. But both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh need to pay greater attention to the Mission. They have increased coverage by a mere 2.62 percent and 4.18 percent respectively since the launch of the Mission. Both states have a share of 37.34 percent of uncovered households with sanitation facilities.
(The writer is Young Professional with NITI Aayog. The views expressed are strictly personal.)