With more important schemes on solid waste management and drinking water expected to get higher funding, the government's much publicised Swachh Bharat Mission — which aims to enhance the level of sanitation in India and make the country open defecation free (ODF)– seems to be on its way out.
The Finance Ministry has decreased allocation to Swachh Bharat as the mission per se has almost ended with most targets till October 2, 2018 already being achieved. The mission, which also inspired Bollywood to make a movie on the subject of sanitation, would now be undertaken on a back-end mission of solid waste management under a cluster system, a top ministry official has said.
The mission was started in 2014. Run by the Government of India, the mission aimed to achieve an "open-defecation free" (ODF) India by October 2, 2019, by constructing 90 million toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.
"Swachh Bharat is now almost ending. It has reached the final stage and only 10 per cent of work is there. Now back-end work is to be done — solid waste management, it will be a cluster type of a thing, which cannot be an individual kind. That also has been factored in the expenditure. There is a gradual decrease in allocation on that," Girish Chandra Murmu, Expenditure Secretary told IANS in an interview.
For 2019-20, the allocation for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has fallen by 25 per cent. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced proposal to expand the mission to achieve 100 per cent solid waste management as its expansion.
The budget outlay of Rs 12,644 crore allocated for SBM (Gramin) in the current year is around Rs 4,334 crore lower than the revised estimate of 2018-19. Swachh Bharat Mission which was an election plank in 2014-15 as a core scheme had an revised outlay of Rs 16,978 crore in FY19, lower than budget estimate of Rs 17,843 crore. Prior to that, in FY18, the mission got actual outlay of Rs 19,427 crore.
Sitharaman in her Budget speech had said Swachh Bharat would now be expanded. "I now propose to expand the Swachh Bharat Mission to undertake sustainable solid waste management in every village," she had said
"Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has touched the very conscience of the nation besides bringing enormous health and environmental benefits. This scheme initiated in 2014, has achieved a resounding success as 9.6 crore toilets have been constructed since October 2, 2014."
She said that more than 5.6 lakh villages have become ODF. "We have to build on this success. We must not only sustain the behavioural change seen in people but also harness the latest technologies available to transform waste into energy."
"I now propose to expand the Swachh Bharat Mission to undertake sustainable solid waste management in every village," she added.
With each year passage of the Swachh Bharat, critics and experts have repeatedly pointed out that while the Swachh Bharat Mission had an important goal in mind, the question of what to do with the waste accrued was never sufficiently answered. So far, India had largely been relying on the informal sector for waste management. (IANS)