Our country is slowly and steadily opening up post the COVID-19 induced lockdown imposed by the government to check the spread of the Corona Virus. Amidst this the entire social media including WhatsApp is filled with messages asking people to keep their surroundings clean and their hands etc sanitised. One important aspect that seems to have been missed during this is the importance and need of Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan. Started in 2014 by Modi Government 1.0 this took shape as a mass movement. Nowhere I intend to say that our country is clean and neat already everywhere. However serious efforts have been put by the central government, state government, the local municipal bodies and above all the people as well. We are far better than what we were in 2014.
SWACCHA BHARAT MISSION AND COVID-19
It will not be an exaggeration if I say that the present situation that we are in would have been far worse if our cities were not “cleaner” than what they were in 2014. At the government level the cleanliness of urban cities was taken as a “challenge” and the government introduced Swaccha Sarvekshan. In this programme every city will be ranked on a 24 point agenda set by the government. A document issued by the Government states that the ranking mechanism is designed in the following manner:
“The protocol has been devised in a holistic manner including components such as cleanliness of drains & water bodies, plastic waste management, managing construction & demolition waste, etc. which are critical drivers for achieving garbage free cities. While the key thrust of this protocol is on SWM, it also takes care of ensuring certain minimum standards of sanitation through a set of prerequisites defined in the framework.“
For the assessment the Government designed a portal wherein the cities which chose to compete had to fill in their entire details along with supporting documents. After which an independent body verifies the information. Post this, experts do field visits and cross verify every claim made by the Urban Local Body.
The Ministry stated that “1435 cities applied. During the assessments, 1.19 crore citizen feedbacks and over 10 lakh geo-tagged pictures were collected and 5175 solid waste processing plants were visited by 1210 field assessors. While 698 cities cleared the desktop assessment, 141 cities have been certified with Star Rating during field assessment.“
Clearly we can see that the scale and efforts are huge by the government. The Ministry even proudly announces that since 2014 “4324 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) have been declared ODF (4204 certified ODF), 1306 cities certified ODF+ and 489 cities certified ODF++. Moreover, 66 lakhs individual household toilets and over 6 lakhs community/ public toilets have been constructed/ or are under construction. In the area of solid waste management, 96% of wards have 100% door-to door collection while 65% of the total waste generated is being processed.”
The Government, NGO’s as well as the citizens should be congratulated for achieving better cleanliness and hygiene as compared to what we had in 2014 however there is still a long way to go. Most of our cities still have a problem of spitting on the streets, garbage and unclean surroundings. It is also very clear that early implementation of this programme has also helped us in this fight against COVID 19. Hopefully together we achieve more in the coming times and the awareness raised during this pandemic does not subside down post the virus scare wanes away.