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Celebrating a movement of health & hygiene this Swachhata Diwas !

Celebrating a movement of health & hygiene this Swachhata Diwas !

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The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been one of the most ambitious public initiatives India has ever seen. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the movement on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2, 2014, a day that would henceforth be celebrated as Swachhata Diwas, generations of Indians had suffered through lack of sanitation and the scourge of poor hygiene. The headline objective of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was to provide every household in India with a working toilet and end open defecation. The government declared the mission accomplished, most appropriately, on Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday, on October 2, 2019. Therefore, on the occasion of another Swachhata Diwas, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to judge how far we have come and how much further we must go.

Where We Were

Before the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, only 38.7% of Indians had access to a fully functional toilet. This poor sanitation coverage was exacerbated by a prevalent culture of open defecation. These habits were so deeply entrenched that their negative effects, like proliferation of intestinal diseases and widespread malnutrition, were just taken as matter of course. Apart from this, poor understanding of solid and liquid waste management meant local water sources would often get irretrievably polluted by affluents, further worsening sanitation problems. This was one of the leading causes of diseases and health problems.

How Bharat Became Swachh

When he launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Prime Minister correctly framed it as not just a health & hygiene issue, but as a social and economic one too. The construction of 92.5 million toilets and provision of sanitation facilities to 157.3 million homes has disproportionately helped women lead healthier lives. Besides this, a network of swachhgrahis, who are foot soldiers of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, have turned health and sanitation into a grassroot movement. This has also improved the health of local water resources, once the community realized the vicious cycle that poor quality water caused, leading to further deterioration in public health.

The Road Ahead

Even by the most conservative estimates, nearly 93.1% of households have access to a working toilet and nearly 90.7% of villages have been verified as open defecation free. This is a quantum leap in living standards of a majority of Indians, which has led to upticks in other social indicators too, like improved school attendance and lower incidents of childhood diseases. The next step in ensuring the health of our villages is to introduce modern methods of liquid and solid waste management, so that we can protect and augment our stock of clean water. Not only will such stocks of clean water help our sanitation processes, they will also ensure the benefits of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan last generations.

But most of all, though it started as a Central Government program, the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan has empowered every citizen of the country to contribute to the cause and help create a cleaner and healthier India, that respects its resources.

We too are giving a platform to our national efforts to promote health and hygiene and conserve clean water sources with #MissionPaani, an initiative by News 18 and Harpic India. You can also be a part of this transformative movement. Just log onto https://www.news18.com/mission-paani/

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