Satyagraha se Swachhagraha is a mass sanitation drive which is spiralling into a jan andolan in Bihar

A social behavioural change led community movement, Satyagraha se Swacchagraha is an ambitious sanitation drive by the Central Government to bolster its Swachh Bharat Mission. Sensitising people in rural India about the importance of sanitation and cleanliness of their surroundings in day to day life, Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation talks to Manali Jaggi of BW SmartCities about this movement as more of a peoples’ movement driven for them, by them and from them. Edited Excerpts:-

Tell us more about this initiative called ‘Satyagraha Se Swachhagraha’ of yours?

Inspired by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement, which was launched a century ago, “Satyagraha se Swachhagraha” is a community-wide sanitation drive to boost the momentum of Swachh Bharat Mission in rural Bihar, from 3rd to 10th April, 2018. Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, in coordination with the Government of Bihar, is working to spread the message of Swachhata across the state through the campaign. More than 10,000 of the best trained grassroots level sanitation motivators called Swachhagrahis from different parts of the country have travelled to Bihar, where they are working with 10,000 Swachhagrahis from Bihar to trigger behaviour change throughout the 38 districts of Bihar.

The week culminated with a mega-event in East Champaran district, where the Prime Minister will address 20,000 Swachhagrahis on the Champaran Satyagraha anniversary, 10th April. As a part of this event, the SBM will also award Swachhagrahis who have performed outstandingly in their villages.  

Do you think this movement of sorts by you will bring about the important change in peoples’ attitudes as public hygiene is yet to become a culture in India?

The Prime Minister has time and again emphasized on the importance of making Swachh Bharat a ‘Jan Andolan’ or a People’s Movement. Satyagraha se Swachhagraha is a mass sanitation drive which is spiralling into a jan andolan in Bihar. The experience that these motivators have in community approaches to sanitation helps them trigger mini sanitation revolutions in the places they work. It is this experience that helps our motivators understand the roots of the socio-cultural biases that hinder safe sanitation and teaches them methods to overcome them. They generate demand for safe sanitation through Information Education Communication / Behaviour Change Communication activities. We believe they will be able to replicate in Bihar, the energy and innovation that has led to their own villages becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF).   

Sanitation not only is a concern of national importance but is also crucial to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), what else are you doing to ensure equal public participation in keeping our public places clean and address the menace of filthiness? 

Swachhata has been Gandhiji’s dream, the Prime Minister’s vision and this Government’s priority. It is not by 2030, but by 2019, that India aims to ensure availability and access to sustainable sanitation for all. After a village is declared ODF, solid and liquid resource management, visual cleanliness and freedom from filth are important parts of what we call ODF-plus activities. Given that SBM is a community-led movement, the success of the Mission depends on engagement of everyone in the community, including the village sarpanches, masons, children, teachers, women, swachhagrahis, Government officials and anganwadi workers among others. All these players are engaged in shramdaan and mass cleanliness drives involving cleaning of common ponds, roads, back alleys, parks/ gardens and public places under the Mission.  

Further, through inter-ministerial initiatives like Swachhata Action Plan (Union Ministries make Swachhata a formal budget line in their annual financial plans), Swachhata Pakhwada (Ministries observe Swachhata fortnights for cleaning up their surroundings countrywide), and Swachh Iconic Places (Clean-up of places of faith and cultural value), cleanliness has become a common goal. 

What is the timeline you are eyeing at towards accomplishing this movement’s goal? Would it be achievable by then?

We have committed to accomplish this movement’s goal of making rural India clean and open defecation free by 2nd October 2019, marking the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation. However, we are on track to make rural India ODF well before that timeline, so as to give us time to ensure sustainability of our outcomes.   

There has been a lot of thrust on the Government’s part for ensuring toilets in cities and rural areas, however, adequate access to water supply has often been neglected, how are you going to ensure that as there is a clear connection between sanitation and water access?

There is a policy in place to prioritize ODF villages for providing piped water supply. The state Governments are working hard to ensure that the piped water supply coverage increases further. Moreover, as a part of Swachh Bharat Mission, the steep slope rural pan is promoted in areas with limited water access. This toilet model is a grassroot innovation that needs only one litre water per flush. As the NARSS recently observed, 93.4 per cent of people who had access to toilets always used them. This means that some arrangement to use water in the toilets was made by the people in over 90 per cent of cases. This may have been through piped water supply to the household or village, or through hand pumps, wells or other ground and surface water sources.