[Answered]In light of recent NSO’s survey findings on open defecation, criticallyexaminewhether Swachh Bharat Mission is a success or failure?

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual Introduction.

Body. Mention recent National Statistical Office (NSO) survey findings. Discuss whether SBM is a success or failure? Various issues wrt SBM.

Conclusion. Way forward.

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched in 2014 with the aim of ensuring a ‘clean India’.The objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission included Eliminating of open defecation, Eradication of manual scavenging,100% collection and scientific processing/disposal reuse/recycle of Municipal Solid Waste,and to bring about a behavioural change in people with regards to healthy sanitation practices. SBM has played a great role in instilling a silent revolution of cleanliness in recent times, but some issue still remains.

Recent National Statistical Office (NSO) survey findings:

  1. The latest National Statistical Office (NSO) survey on sanitation, showed that about 71% of rural households had access to toilets as contrary to government’s claim of 95%.
  2. Large States which had been declared ODF included Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.According to the NSO, almost 42% of rural households in Jharkhand had no access to a toilet at that time. In Tamil Nadu, the gap was 37%, followed by 34% in Rajasthan.
  3. In Gujarat, which was one of the earliest States declared ODF, almost a quarter of all rural households had no toilet access, the NSO data showed. The other major States listed also had significant gaps.
  4. According to NSO, there may be respondent bias in the reporting of access to latrine.The 71% access to toilets was still a significant improvement over the situation during the last survey period in 2012, when only 40% of rural households had access to toilets.


Since its launch in October 2014, the SBM, the world’s largest sanitation program, has changed the behaviour of hundreds of millions of people with respect to toilet access and usage.Economic survey 2018 depicts exponential growth in sanitation coverage for the same.Swachh Bharat- a Success:

  1. Impressive increase in access of toilets- the government claims 9.2 crore toilets built in rural areas.
  2. Based on toilet construction, the government has declared 28 states and UTs as Open Defecation Free.
  3. 500 million people have stopped defecating in the open since the SBM began, down from 550 million at the beginning of the programme to less than 50 million today.
  4. The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2018-19, conducted by an Independent Verification Agency (IVA) under the World Bank support project to the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G), has found that 96.5% of the households in rural India who have access to a toilet use it.
  5. A recent WHO study reports that Swachh Bharat would have led to the saving of 300,000 lives by 2019 and around 150,000 lives would be saved annually thereafter.
  6. The NSO’s statistics on toilet usage are also encouraging. It reported that 95% of people with access to toilets in rural India used them regularly, indicating that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s efforts to change behaviour have borne fruit. Only 3.5% of those with toilet access in rural India said that they never used them. This was aided by the fact that water was available around the toilet in more than 95% of cases.

Swachh Bharat- failed in some aspects:

  1. Independent surveys show open defecation continues even in areas that the government has declared Open Defecation Free.
  2. High levels of coercion have been used to build the toilets and behavioural change has been slow to follow.
  3. Access to toilets does not mean open defecation has ended, as the government claims. The RICE survey found 23% of people who own a toilet continue to defecate in the open, including people in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which have been declared open defecation-free states.
  4. The big failurein Swachh Bharat Mission lie in the disposal of waste. According to NSO data, more than 50% of rural Indian households with toilets had septic tanks, while another 21% used single pits, both of which need to be cleaned and produce faecal sludge that must be disposed of safely.
  5. There are concerns regarding the durability and quality of construction of toilets. It is observed that fall back rate of ODF declared villages in the past was high because of the non-sustainability of toilets.
  6. SBM has made inadequate attempts at critical areas of eradication of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of such workers.
  7. There has been an insufficient investment on procuring mechanised sludge and pump machines for physical removal of excreta.
  8. Moreover, the campaign does not address a reworking of the underground sewerage system.

Way forward:

  1. The government should focus on creating a demand for toilets. Policymakers must make sure that a higher proportion of funds are directed towards educating people about hygiene and the social marketing of toilets.
  2. To resolve the issue of over/under reporting of government set targets, verification of facts on the ground is highly important.
  3. Proper facilities for the disposal of excreta should be established. People started using toilets but the faecal material goes untreated which harms the environment.
  4. Different cost-effective technologies must be adopted for sewage treatments and proper disposal of waste from toilets.
  5. Use of technology can play a crucial role in eradicating the practice of manual scavenging.
  6. Empowering the lower castes by encouraging them to pursue alternative jobs and possibly providing them with subsidies to build latrine facilities can also be a step in this direction.

Thus, overall facts and data reflect that swachh bharat is a big success based on various data available but still there are some issues which once solved will make Swachh Bharat a complete success. More is needed to be done in this direction.

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