Centre gears up to launch revamped sanitation mission

Corporate houses will have a major role in Swacchh Bharat Abhiyan which aims at achieving total sanitation by 2019

By Sushmita Sengupta
Published: Monday 01 September 2014


After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech that emphasised on creating a “clean India”, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) is all geared up to introduce its revamped sanitation programme—Swacchh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA). In this connection, the ministry has released a draft note on the new mission.

According to the ministry, SBA has solutions for all the problems of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan which it would replace (see 'Past efforts to clean India'). The new mission would work more or less on the same line as NBA, and have the same goals.  But this time the government has set a more ambitious deadline. The target of 2022 for achieving total sanitation under NBA has been pre-poned to 2019 to coincide with 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The ministry has directed the states to gear up for the programme and is planning to leave no stone unturned in order to reach the target. 

Past efforts to clean India

India has witnessed several sanitation programmes being launched since 1986. The first in the series was the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which was totally supply and hardware-driven. The mission failed to factor in reasons for open defecation (OD) and floundered. There was no community involvement and the subsidies provided by the government was taken as cash transfer. People were not at all made aware about sanitation. This led to the programme getting revamped and took the shape of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999. The new programme tried to be demand-driven and people-centred, thus trying to fill the gaps missing in CRSP.  TSC focussed on information, education and communication (IEC) and capacity development activities to increase awareness of the rural people and generation of demand for sanitary facilities. Instead of subsidy, incentives were introduced post construction of toilets. Convergence of TSC with Indira Awas Yojna was started in 2006 for better success. However, TSC again moved on the same path of CRSP.

In 2012, TSC was replaced by Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA). The NBA aimed to transform rural India into “Nirmal Bharat” by adopting community-led, people-centred strategies and a “community saturation approach”. The programme put emphasis on awareness creation and demand generation for sanitation facilities in houses, schools and for cleaner environment.

But NBA, too, had shortcomings. According to MDWS, the programme suffered from problems like changing of mindset of the people so that they give up OD, technological problem of defunct toilets, water availability, institutional problems like convergence of NBA and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and inadequately trained sanitation staff.

Role of corporates and SPV 
The new mission keeps Gram Panchayats as the basic unit of delivery as under NBA, but this time the mission will rope in corporate houses in addition to NGOs and volunteers (Swachhta Doot ) in order to help the panchayats attain 100 per cent sanitation. The corporates will help the panchayats directly or through their funding by helping them to build community sanitary complexes (CSCs). The corporate houses will also help in maintenance for a couple of years after implementation of the project. The new mission also introduces a component—Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). The function of the SPV will be sourcing of fund from different sources—both government and non government (including funds under Corporate Social Responsibility). The SPV will also implement the CSR projects. CSR will also be used for supplying materials like cement, pan and bricks to the beneficiaries. Corporate social responsibility, thus, would be a big player in SBA. But involvement of CSR in the field of environment is a matter of controversy in India. The sustainability of environment in many cases under CSR has become diluted.  

Delinked from MGNREGS
SBA will also explore convergence schemes for construction of CSCs, school and anganwadi toilets and for creation of integrated women’s sanitation complexes. The ministry admits that the convergence of NBA and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) did not work—the construction of number of toilets slowed down in 2012-13 and 2013-14 due the convergence—and hence they are thinking of de-linking this in the new mission (see 'MGNREGS won't subsidise rural toilets, says Gadkari'). It is not clear how SBA will overcome the issues faced by NBA- MGNREGS convergence in building household toilets and become successful in other convergence schemes.  

Household toilets constructed through the years

To make the programme successful, the ministry is planning to invest a huge amount of money in information, education and communication  (IEC) activities and capacity building programmes. These components are also there under NBA but the states used only 45.03 per cent of the approved amount till August 2014. States like Punjab and Goa show a very poor expenditure of around 2 per cent against the approved funds. The draft note does not explain how SBA will ensure that funds allocated are properly spent.  

Expenditure on information, education and awareness by states till August 2014

Funding toilets
The new SBA also plans to motivate the district and sub-district and block level government officials by offering personal incentive. 

The SBA note finds that the unit cost of toilets offered under NBA-MGNREGS scheme (Rs 10, 000 in general and Rs 10, 500 for hilly terrains) is not enough. They are considering to increase the amount. For this officials are planning to extend small loans through agencies like NABARD, SIDBI (or banks through priority sector lending without collateral). This loan will be for households or individuals who need more money for construction. 

Microfinance for sanitation already exists in India. Micro-credit finance started to work in India in late 1980s. The reasons for growth of the microfinance in India were as follows: 

(i) To improve the sanitation coverage

(ii) National policies emphasise household investments (such as through the government sponsored TSC which provided post construction incentives) 

The role of micro-credit in India faced controversies. In 2010, the state government of Andhra Pradesh passed a legislation by which it barred non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs) from giving loans in 2010. In fact, the state government was forced to pass the legislation after a series of suicide incidents by the borrowers, most of them illiterate adivasis and dalits. After different court proceedings, MFIs are again allowed to offer credit. But the micro-lender cannot use coercive methods to recover dues. 

NBA used the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund or Member of Legislative Assembly Local Area Development (MLALAD) fund as gap funding for construction of school and and anganwari toilets only. SBA plans to use this fund for CSCs and Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) projects. There is no data available to show whether tapping these funds were successful in bringing in change.  

The Nirmal Gram Puraskar is now going to be replaced by Swachh Bharat Puraskar (SBP). NGP is a financial incentive introduced in 2003 for villages, blocks, districts and states that eliminated open defecation. NGP till date could not ensure open defecation free (ODF) status of the villages. Many villages which received the prize slipped back to open defecation. SBP seems to be of same structure as NGP.  The ministry note does not mention any plan to maintain ODF status of villages after they win the award.   

Monitoring system and delivery mechanism 
Monitoring was the weakest element in all the previous sanitation programmes. Weak monitoring systems led to discrepancy of data on household toilets compiled by MDWS and other government sources like Census 2011 and National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report 2012. There has been a huge criticism from different institutions and activists on this discrepancy.  MDWS argues that the baseline survey done in 2012-13, published by the ministry, is the current data and this should be considered. MDWS also argues that the census data is not very accurate as it does not name the households which actually mean that MDWS is not very sure of the transparency of the census survey. 

According to Census 2011 data, the number of households having toilets was 30.7 per cent while the data from National Sample Survey Office's (NSSO's) 69th round of survey conducted in 2012 puts this figure at 40.60 per cent. The baseline survey of 2012-13 of the ministry says that 40.35 per cent of households in rural India have toilets.

 According to MDWS, the discrepancy in number of household toilets is due to the fact that the number of dysfunctional or defunct toilets are not captured by census or NSSO while baseline survey of 2012-13 gives an account of both functional and dysfunctional toilets together. The reporting by the states, according to MDWS, on household toilets is actually "over reporting". This data says that about 56 per cent of households have toilets till March 2014. MDWS agrees that this data is far ahead of Census 2011, NSSO 2012 and baseline survey data. States are assumed to have distorted facts to get Nirmal Gram Puraskars.  

This time SBA will not take any chance and go for detailed recording of households with photographs of house-owners along with geographical coordinates.  

Mission possible or not 
SBA says that 111.1 million household toilets need to be built in coming five years. SBA has enough funds available in the 12th Plan from the Centre (about Rs 3,243crore) to spend in 2014-15, 2015-16 & 2016- 17 on toilets. The states only need to gear up to absorb this fund. The ministry says that under NBA the growth of household toilets is only 3 per cent per day and assumes that it will rise three times during SBA and achieve the target by 2019. 

Right now as many as 14, 000 toilets are being constructed per day and SBA will aid creation of 3 times more toilets per day, leading to construction of 87.6 million household toilets by 2019. There is still shortage of 800,000 toilets from the target of 88.4 million toilets for BPL and APL (eligible for incentives under sanitation programme).

Number of HH toilets left to be covered under SBA

The delivery mechanism by the state will be strengthened under SBA. It will be ensured that funds are released on time by the Centre. The funds should not lie idle with the states and the money would not be given as an advance to state but as reimbursement on project basis. Under NBA, states receive advance for the sanitation projects.  

Time will only tell whether SBA is just an old model in a new package or an effective programme to bring about changes. 


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