Making India swachh again


A year ago, Swachh Bharat mission was launched with much fanfare and glitz. Leading personalities from various walks of life endorsed the initiative which aimed at making India clean. It was indeed a noble initiative because we all know how much bad odor, bad image and most of all how many epidemics does dirty, filthy garbage bring to the nation. So, without a question, this was a great idea to work upon. But one year down the line, it is prudent and pertinent to ask how much change has it brought on the ground?

Building toilets was priority number one for the government. India is home to the largest number of open defecators in the world. It lags even Bangladesh in this regard. Lack of a necessity as basic a toilet has forced many children, mostly girls to drop out of schools. Open defecation is a social curse and a massive health hazard in that it poisons ground water which in turn creates multiple health problems, especially in rural areas. Besides, it is a security issue for women. So, the government of India embarked on making toilets.

One year down the line, the government claims to have built 80 lakh toilets. But on ground, basic problems are bugging. Unavailability of water, non-existing sewage connection and lack of waste disposal systems are to name a few. Same is the case with toilets built in schools. So, a lot of effort is still needed. Building toilet is not enough, allied facilities are also needed. More importantly, users need to be brought on board. Currently, the amount that is given to people for building toilets is proving insufficient.

Waste disposal is another big area and in this, not much change is visible on ground. We are still not seeing any improvement in how waste is collected, segregated, transported, dumped, treated, and recycled. There is so much we can learn from western countries in this regard, from underground waste collection to creating electricity from waste. While we do have a functional waste to energy plant in Delhi, its efficiency is horrendous because the feed, i.e. the garbage, is not sorted. It also leads to poisonous gases emitted in air. Needless to say, a concerted and sincere beginning is needed.

While it is easy to blame government and civic authorities for the mess, how much have we changed over the last year? Are we segregating garbage at home, something which we must, so that the waste is treated properly? Are we throwing garbage at the right places? Most of all, are we pressing civil bodies to do their job right? No, we are not. And unless we improve, not much will improve on ground. If anything, we need to learn from Gandhi in this regard who felt cleanliness and hygiene was more important than even freedom.

Governance Today just turned one. We started our journey a year ago with a vision, which was to contribute to the discussion on pressing issues of governance. We feel proud that during this period, we have raised critical issues ranging from gender equality to education, agriculture and economic health of the country. We received lot of praises and fair amount of criticism. But it was nice to have so many responses which validated our understanding that a genuine debate sans hyperbole is indeed required on burning issues that the country faces. We thank our readers for their response and hope they would keep the two way communication alive.

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