The Fate of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in Rural Areas

By Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi 

ALTHOUGH Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been successful to a great extent in changing attitudes, mindsets and behaviours of people towards cleanliness and sanitation. COVID 19 pandemic made us realise the importance of personal as well environmental hygiene to prevent communicable /zoonotic diseases.Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) or Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is a nation-wide campaign in India that is aimed at cleaning up the streets, roads and infrastructure of Indian  cities, towns, and rural areas. SBM involves the construction of latrines/lavatories, promoting sanitation programmes in the rural areas, cleaning streets, roads and changing the infrastructure of the country to lead the country ahead. This campaign was officially launched by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on 145th birth anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi on 2nd of October in 2014 at New Delhi (SBM Website). The mission has two thrusts: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Grameen or Rural), which operates under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (urban), which operates under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. Some important objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Source SBM Urban Website) are:

  • To eradicate the system of open defecation in India.

  • To convert the insanitary toilets into pour flush toilets.

  • To remove the system of manual scavenging.

  • To make people aware of healthy sanitation practices by bringing behavioural changes in people.

  • To link people with the programmes of sanitation and public health in order to generate public awareness.

  • To build up the urban local bodies strong in order to design, execute and operate all systems related to cleanliness.

  • To completely start the scientific processing, disposals reuse and recycling the Municipal Solid Waste.

Fate of SBA in Rural Areas

Even though this campaign has been able to create awareness about different types of wastes, benefits in use of toilets, importance of personal hygiene to prevent various diseases, school children about various hygienic practices, waste segregation but as far as rural populace is concerned there seems nothing on ground.  All these activities like taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focusing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment will have an impact when there is no rural and urban divide. Let us look at some real life situations that cause hindrances in implementation. Both rural and urban populace is aware about the hazards of throwing waste in open but in rural areas even if the people collect garbage in homes, after segregation/collection they remain in dilemma Where to put the garbage? and throw that on roadsides, alleyways and even in water bodies like streams, rivulets or ponds due to non-availability of garbage collectors/sites and established dumping sites thereby the very motive of this campaign gets vanished .Nowhere we can find any garbage collection unit in villages or for that matter in educational institutions where even emptying a dustbin at times becomes a matter of debate. In contrast, urban populace has the option of collecting the waste in dustbins even segregating and then putting it in garbage collecting bins (Refuse Collector) of SMC whereby it is then transported to garbage dumping sites.

Disposable nappies and sanitary napkins are thrown in drains, waterbodies or on roadside which not only has become a nuisance in rural areas but has also been slowly mixing with agricultural land. It is pertinent to mention here that the government is responsible for this whole mess as rural populace have no option but either burn the waste generated which will lead to air pollution or throw that waste on roads or water bodies.

Celebrating cleanliness weeks or for that matter months, the purpose of which is sensitizing people towards the essence of cleanliness and hygiene will have no real impact on people due to lack of established garbage sites in rural areas, the garbage collected during such events is then thrown in open or put into water bodies.

Erecting sign boards and hoardings of ODF (Open Defecation Free)in and around panchayats is not going to serve any purpose if government does not rethink about employing a concrete mechanism/policy  of dumping the waste generated in rural areas like they do in urban areas as the use of plastic bags/diapers has overwhelmed every corner of the globe and our villages are no exception.Moreover the piles of garbage accumulated is more dangerous than the actual faecal matter.


The people concerned at the helm of affairs or executing agencies need to review their basic approach of implementation in view of the already discussed flaws wherein at least one garbage collecting bin (Refuse Collector) like in Municipalities is kept in every village which is emptied every fortnight at least so that the very motive of sensitization and ultimately this campaign is upheld not just taking a broom to pose for a photograph as has been the case.  Despite approaching the concerned authorities through social/print media, nothing seems to be happening on ground in rural areas.

Similarly cleaning one area to make the life of people living in and around other areas (dumping sites) hell, the clear case of which is Achan Dumping Site due to non-scientific and rudimentary way of disposing of the waste needs to have a relook as that is becoming a health hazard and pose serious threat to the inhabitants.

Waste accumulation in inconceivable places like fresh water springs/rivers, school premises, crossways, grazing lands , graveyards etc. in rural habitations can have serious repercussions in near future if some immediate and practical steps on ground are not taken.Government has not yet framed any Solid Waste Disposal/Treatment policy that has also created the chaos.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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