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Special Content

Volume-44, 27 January-2 February, 2017

Swachh Bharat Mission and Youth

Yugal Joshi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Mission has caught nation's imagination. Inspiring leadership at centre, states, districts and panchayats had made it possible to almost double the sanitation coverage today from what it was three years ago. Effetive communication, planning and implementation, rigourous reviews, facilitation of proven behaviour change technologies as well as local innovations has made construction of more than 5.94 crore toilets and their usage possible. SBM looks all set to achieve its date of making India open defecation free by October 2, 2019.
Looked almost as an impossible task in 2014, when about 60 crore Indians were defecating in open, today more than 300 distrcits, 3,00,000 villages, 10 States and Union territories have been declared open defecation free and the number of people defecating in open has reduced to about 25 crores. This has been made possible by the hundreds of women champions and young sarpanches, swachhata vilunteers called swachhagrahies, Swachh Bharat Preraks and other thousands of inspired youths spread across hundreds of districts in India.
As it is said,
उत्साहों बलवानार्यनास्त्युत्साहात्परमबलम।
सोत्साहस्य चलोकेषुनकिंचिदपिदुर्लभम।।
(A person with enthusiasm is a powerful person. There is nothing as powerful as enthusiasm. Nothing is impossible to an enthusiastic person.)
Daily we hear or read many stories coming out from villages where a young man or woman inspire his family or her villagers to build and use toilets. Youth have been in forefront of many toilet technology innovations suiting to local needs, such as bamboo soak pits in Arunachal Pradesh or self cleaning school toilets in Tamilnadu. Hundreds of youth, be  these from rural areas or from country's top technological institutes participated in first ever Swachhathon focusing technological innovations in improving rural sanitation. At the centre, young Assistant Secretaries, all in their first posting, conducted this entire all India competition.
To assist the district collectors and State Mission directors in planning and monitoring sanitation activities and bringing focussed attention and enthusiasm to the programme at local level, a need was felt to have young educated graduates from premier engineering or management institutes or Universities who could devote their time and energy at district level. Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation,in collaboration with Tata Trusts
filled this void and now the Mission has about 500 Swachh Bharat Preraks working closely with district administration to make the distrcits open defecation free.
If you ever visit to those villages where open defecation is still practiced, much before the dawn, you have a fair chance to meet young members of Nigrani Samities, educating and counselling the villagers going out in open to defecateabout need to have and use a toilet. These volunteers are called Swachhagrahies. These young men and women, committed to make their villages and panchayats  open defecation free are the backbones of Swachh Bharat. Presently numbering about 3.5 lakh, these youths convince the locals to have a toilet near home, educate them on close relationship between health and hyigene, discuss the issues of women's security and sufferings vis-a-vis open defecation and assist them in building toilets. Swachhagrahies become the bridge between local administration and the villagers. Since most of them hail from local villages, they are trusted friends of the villagers in sanitation issues. The Ministry plans to have at least one swachhagrahi in every Indian village, thus buiding a dedicated force of more than 6.5 lakh sanitation volunteers to not only make villages ODF but also to sustain it and also for solid and liquid resource management.
Here, it will not be out of context to talk about participation of millions of youth in Ministry's awareness programmes like Swachh Shakti (celebrating the role of women in sanitation), Satyagrah se Swachhhagrah, Khule Mein Shauch se Mukti Saptah ( Week leading to Independence Day that was focussed on ODF), Swachh Sankalp se Swachh Siddhi (a fornight dedicated to Swachhata), Swachhata Hi Seva and various other programmes. Swachh Bharat Mission is a unique programme and the biggest behaviour change programme in the history of mankind. And participation of millions of youth in it has been phenomenol. For example, more than 10 crore people participated in Swachhata Hi Seva programme and majority of them were youth. More than 7,40,000 NCC cadets and 1,57,000 para-military jawans directly participated in the programme. Overwhelming response from Ministry's awareness competitions received more than 2.89 crore paintings, 2.8 crore essays and about 3 lakh short films.
All over India, lakhs of young sarpanches, volunteers, civil society organisations, sports icons, artistes and film stars have been associated with Swachh Bharat Mission. Few years ago, who could have thought that a movie based on open defecation and need of a toilet would do business of more than Rs. 200 crores. But, it happened. Youth enthusiastically participate in day long swachhata programmes run by the TV channels. Swachhata champions, celebrities or commoners have found their own areas where they contribute to make India swachh.
Stories such as brothers making toilet for their sisters or bride demanding toilet in her in-law's house before agreeing to enter there, or moving stories of specially abled young women inspiring their villages to become ODF, have become common. For example, when a young bride Anjani Mallah, came to her husband's village, she had to face the embrassment of defecating in open, as his home in Medrapar village of Sant Kabirnagar district did not have a toilet. She came together with some local women and with the help of administration helped the villagers to construct 150 toilets. Such initiatives from common people have made Swachh Bharat Mission a jan-andolan. Stories of youth bands cleaning      of garbage from public places                 or young municipal commissinors bringing in the swachhta at iconic places, or young people in villages coming together to build toilets in their villages with their own money and refusing to accept the incentive money, have been repeating in entire rural Indian landscape.
They are equally concious to the fact that the work of solid and liquid waste management is another big challenge they have to respond quickly and effciently. So far, the Indian youth have responded excellently to the call of Prime Minister to  make India Swachh. Sanitation coverage that was a paltry 39 % in 2014, now stands at 76%. The challenge that remains before the youth is not only to achieve the cent percent toilet coverage and usage but also to sustain it in for all times to come.
The Author is Director, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.  Email Id:  yugal.joshi@gov.in