Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin/Rural)

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  • Naina Kidwai, Chairperson of the India Sanitation Coalition
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Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin/Rural)

I have the pleasure to initiate the first discussion of the India Chapter of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA). The topic Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) is one that is close to our hearts and minds. As you will see in the discussion, we have four questions. I am responding to the first with initial thoughts to start the discussion and hope you will join in.

This is the first time a Prime Minister has embraced sanitation and used his first Independence Day speech to focus on sanitation and his consistent and passionate message on sanitation has echoed at the state and district levels across the country. He has set a target to make India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019. Along with construction we are seeing a great deal of emphasis on changing behaviour to stop open defecation. The construction target is ambitious and India still needs to make about 88 million toilets to make this a reality. The government has made arrangements for money by levying a Swacch Bharat cess and budgetary provisions. What has helped accelerate the programme in the States is the augmenting of human resources from the State to the block levels. In the well-performing States, a senior officer now heads the SBM assisted by a team of officers and consultants. In districts, collectors and magistrates are taking a personal interest in the programme and have inspired other district officials to join the campaign. District coordinators, chief executive officers, engineers and dedicated staff and consultants have started taking interest.

Along with policy and resources, I see an improvement in the planning and execution of SBM. Notably, the district is being seen as the unit of planning. The objective is not merely making toilets but making the district open defecation-free. Strategies have been worked out for augmenting human resources, training and convergence with other government departments and programmes. Using the IEC funds strategically, district and state authorities have built cadres of sanitation motivators and trained masons. They are dovetailing this with mass schemes such as self-help groups, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, etc., to reach out to people, provide credit and materials to the poor and ensure behaviour change.

However, given the scale of the challenge and India’s very disparate socio-political landscape, performance varies from State to State and even within a State. Too often we depend on an individual without making the change systemic. I believe this is one of the challenges we must overcome if we are to have a truly ‘swachh’ and open defecation-free country in three years. In other words, departments entrusted with implementing SBM need to deliver rather than only individuals within the system. True, individuals can catalyse action but to create a larger impact, the whole department needs to move along with the person.

Another huge challenge is making beneficiaries realise the benefits of using the infrastructure. A third is the quality of construction. A fourth is the emphasis on the dignity and safety of women in the behaviour change messaging that needs to be more broad-based ,covering men as well. A fifth is ensuring equity in planning and execution so the poor and marginalised are accorded the same priority in planning and implementation that others receive. A sixth is the timely release of funds directly to the beneficiary to eliminate graft and also encourage people to make and use toilets.
We need to create a people’s movement where all citizens move in the direction of recognising that good sanitation is good for each of us and for the common good.

I look forward to hearing your response to the questions. Please note, we are starting with the first question and will keep it open for a week, till 5 August. After that we will move to the second question and so on.

Naina Kidwai
Chairperson
India Sanitation Coalition
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  • sunetralala
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Re: On the way to a “clean India” – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

Dear members,

(The opinions expressed here are mine and do not reflect that of the organisation I am associated with.)

The SBM (G) was launched in 2014 with a high level of political and bureaucratic commitment both from the Central Government and several state governments. Since then, several states have made changes to the way they approach sanitation by placing an IAS officer in-charge of the state Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin). This has indicated state level political and bureaucratic commitment. In some states progress has been rapid since these changes such as in UP and Odisha while better-performing state such as Rajasthan have accelerated their programmes. Along with this, they have paid attention to sorting out operational problems of timely transfer of funds, supply chain, human resources and creating an enabling environment at all levels. Notably, beneficiaries are encouraged to make toilets rather than allowing the earlier practice of encouraging panchayats or contractors to do so.

Again the better performers have managed to make a high-level shift from merely targeting toilet construction year on year incrementally to making villages, panchayats, blocks and districts open defecation free. Therefore, the campaign has included use as an important indicator of success. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, recommended ODF indicators that set the ball rolling. Several states have used this to develop their own procedures. The process is rigorous in many states and involves multi-step verification, including by third parties.

To improve the efficacy, I feel equity issues need to be brought to the fore in planning, implementation and monitoring. For instance, while the unit of implementation is the GP, most comprise several villages with different types of population by caste or religion. It often happens the affluent villages inhabited by better educated people corner most of the resources under any scheme. The SBM (G) can combine equity in access with universal covered by prioritising funds and resources for villages inhabited by poor, SCs and STs to ensure no one is left behind.

The successes we are seeing now are largely due to the leadership and commitment of district officials, starting with the district magistrates and collectors, chief executive officers, district coordinators, district panchayati raj officers, engineers, etc. This is laudable but needs to be institutionalised so the entire machinery in the district is oriented towards ODF – achievement and sustainability. One way is to designate a senior official as the district sanitation coordinator in addition to have consultants as coordinators, along with block and cluster coordinators. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of maintaining infrastructure, upgrading sanitation conditions, solid and liquid waste management and behaviour change.

Technical aspects of sanitation such as where to locate toilets, the best type of toilet in a particular location, ensuring water is not contaminated, etc., are some other aspects that need to be taken care of. Going forward, sanitation in institutions needs to be standardised in keeping with the Kayakalp and Swacch Vidyalaya guidelines.

Regards,
Sunetra Lala,
Jaipur
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  • siddharthadas
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

Thanks Naina for raising some very pertinent issues. It is a pleasure to be part of this forum. Thanks to SuSanA, India Sanitation Coalition and Nitya Jacob for all your efforts.

Planning and execution indeed needs some improvement. Also, there is an urgent need to improve the monitoring framework across all levels. Lack of human resources mainly at the grassroot level is also sometimes hampering the progress.

However due to increased political willingness, there has been an increased vigor since the launch of the mission. Nodal ministries and developmental organisations along with civil society have become increasingly active in trying to contribute to the mission. MDWS has prioritized around 170 districts to become open defecation free in the next one year. These districts constitute the phase I districts where other than increased focus, there is an effort to ensure more support from developmental organisations working in the district. Close monitoring by MDWS and a healthy competition among the collectors is contributing to improved sanitation situation in these districts.

Another area which needs immediate attention is ensuring better convergence among different nodal ministries. Also, duplication of any effort needs to be avoided.

Siddhartha Das
(Policy Manager: WaterAid India)
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  • mathewmattam
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

Institutional issues

Poor understanding about SBM implementation amongst institutional heads: Yesterday I visited a block and met the CEO to offer support to mobilize communities to ensure open defecation free villages, where trained young people are available as facilitators. He told us that those villages selected by the youth group have already being saturated with toilets, and whether we can help him to construct toilets in those gram panchayats where no toilet is constructed. Even today the administration is focusing on constructing toilets and not ensuring their usage. Millions of toilets are being constructed and they are not in use and this is not their concern at all.

CLTS is considered as a “magic tool” by all in the country today. Capacity building programmes are limited to CLTS. This does not include a comprehensive understanding on issues like technology, ODF verification, ODF implementation strategies, importance of achieving institutional access to sanitation, etc. I feel CLTS has become an end in itself without adequate follow up plans as well as adequate human resource back up to reach every village.

Hardware made and expenditure on poor software: What do state SBMs or MDWS do to ensure that districts utilize both hardware and software funds proportionally? Most district missions focus on spending the hardware budgets and ensuring additional funds come into their kitty. But very often the hard-earned honorariums for motivators and facilitators is not paid and travel is not reimbursed. This de-motivates them and affects behaviour change communication. It shows a lack of seriousness about the all-important behaviour change aspects. Therefore, states and central governments need to keep a watch over whether software budget is adequately utilized in proportion to hardware utilization. If it is not done, this mission will be without missionaries, ODF India in 2019 will be a distant dream.

ODF is neither a people’s agenda nor a national agenda: ODF remains an administrative agenda or a political agenda. Wherever a particular party is in power, a movement for constructing toilets is happening but not an ODF movement. However, other political parties have not prioritised this at the ground level to ensure ODF panchayats. This is one of the biggest challenges to achieve ODF by 2019. Can we make this a national agenda and not an administrative, or a particular political party’s agenda? The current government needs a more inclusive approach.

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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

The basic fault in the current policy where its laudable objectives fail is that the focus is entirely on toilet construction at very low and unrealistic prices. This has led to a situation where a panchayat relapses to OD status in about two years after being declared ODF. We have all heard case studies documenting toilets being used as stores or lying abandoned or not usable because there is no water supply.

The focus I feel should be on a holistic and most importantly sustainable solutions. This means there must be flexibility in the policies as well as the funding available so that the solution actually caters to the needs of a particular location.

The SBM guidelines all talk about SLWM systems and Panchayat level solutions perhaps it is time we all focused on this aspect instead of toilet construction. This would allow panchayats to handle both greywater as well as the sewage in a manner that dovetails with the Clean India drive.
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

Improved sanitation conditions in India need a change in approach and perception towards human excreta. Focusing on resource recovery from human excreta rather than disposing it off would help in combating the problem of open defecation to a great extent. The key here is to understand the psyche of population resorting to open defecation in India. Constructing toilets alone is not a solution to the problem. The challenge is motivating people to use them. Using an approach based on resource recovery would be ideal for India since it is not only environmentally beneficial but also has the potential of monetary benefits through energy production and combating fertiliser prices.

Sudheer Salana,
M.Tech. Environmental science and engineering (IIT Bombay)
Scientist(fellow)
NEERI
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

Dear Naina,

Thanks for setting the tone for the discussions that lie ahead. Many thanks to SuSanA, India Sanitation Coalition and Nitya Jacob for all your efforts for creating a knowledge space for meaningful discussions, learning and sharing between stakeholders and practitioners.


I'll take this opportunity to second your thoughts on equity issues. The question really is or perhaps should be, are the voices of marginalized individuals subsumed within the community? Are individual needs within a household looked at? How do we bring the spot light back on the categories of people who are not able to access and use safe sanitation facilities”, such as, “women, children, people of certain castes, faiths and ethnicities, older people, pregnant women, people with disabilities?

Look forward to some great discussions.
Sanchita Ghosh
Technical Officer, Knowledge and Learning (WSSCC)
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

In a subsidised toilet construction project in Tamil Nadu, the construction costs were kept as low as possible, leading to a small/narrow toilet, semi-finished with a plaster floor and masoned walls. Several villagers did not use these toilets, mainly because they could not be properly kept clean. In the same village individuals had constructed their own toilets, spacious and with tiles on the floor and walls. They were proud to show us their toilets.

Ceramic tiles are an expensive elements, but should not be financed from the end of the budget. Subsidy policy should be designed in such a way that the villager can complete the installation conform a high standard and facilitate good cleaning.

Establishing a payment system for quality toilet compost may help low-income people to pay off the higher cost of a larger toilet/bathroom.
Sjoerd from The Netherlands.
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin)

It is a common story everywhere that wherever the end-user helps in the construction, demands a toilet or leads construction, the toilet is used. However, many states under the pressure from administration/SBM contractors or even sarpanchs focus only on number of toilets constructed and do not both to ensure the participation of the beneficiaries. This is one of the major reasons for toilets not being used.

It is a pity that many sarpanchs have taken loans. I heard that one sarpanch sold his land to provide toilet to the villagers under the pressure from administration. During a training programme one sarpanch proposed that to extend it for a month so that the vendors will not harass him for not paying for the materials purchased from them! Different states have adopted various strategies but I feel the best practices can be documented and promoted.
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin/Rural)

Hi Everyone
Improvement of sanitation coverage in rural India is a challenging issue. During SBM there is considerable improvement. There does not seem problem with the policy and guidelines of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India. Problems exist with proper implementation of the program in some states.
There are states like Bihar, Odisha, J&K, Jharakhand, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh where sanitation coverage is still between 25- 43%.( Bihar is at the bottom with about 25%). In addition to the financial support from the MoDWS, some of these states have supports from Workd Bank/ WSP, UNICEF and GSF also. In spite of all such supports, such supports these states are lagging behind. What could be the reasons? Most of such states have unutilized fund released by the government.
Awareness level to common people has definitely improved. There are news that some people got toilet constructed after selling goats, taking loans on much higher rate in interest etc. in spite of the fact that such people are eligible for the financial support from the government for household toilets. It appears that there is lack of awareness / commitment with the local bodies (district level agency) for the program.
What are the bottlenecks with such states? Rapid Action Learning Units (RALU) might have learned such bottle necks and means to overcome such problems. RALU and Organisations / persons involved with the implementation of program in the states may like to highlight the issue with solutions.

Best

Pawan
Pawan Jha
Chairman
Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
Web: www.foundation4es.org
Linked: linkedin.com/in/drpkjha
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin/Rural)

One of the significant changes in the past 2-3 years has been the appointment of mission directors in states. An officer of the Indian Administrative Service has been given full-time or part-time charge of SBM. This has lent weight to the programme, I feel. Also, collectors/magistrates in districts have become involved with SBM again helping to prioritise the mission at the operational level. At the grassroots level sarpanchs, pradhans and frontline workers have also been involved. This has made a sea change in the way sanitation perceived and prioritised. From being at the bottom of the list of development priorities it has moved up the agenda for both the bureaucracy and politicians.

Along with this in some place where results are seen work is being done at scale and with the objective of making communities, blocks and districts ODF rather than merely constructing toilets. Various means are used for this though what counts is the administrative will to make it happen, that was lacking.

However, ODF and construction can easily be conflated to pursue targets unless the administration steps back and lets politicians and people take charge. For a true demand-led programme, this process is essential and time-consuming. Plans for ODF need to stretch beyond the usual government annual planning horizon and span 2-3 year, or even more depending on the scale of the challenge.
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Re: Policy and Institutions – 2 years of Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin/Rural)

Dear member,

We are having an interesting discussion on two years of SBM, focusing on policies and institutions. We have received comments from Naina Kidwai, who initiated the discussion, and several members. A summary is given below:

SBM has made a difference to perceptions about sanitation in India and created a buzz around it in the country and abroad. Two years into the programme, it is becoming clear that state governments, districts and panchayats have definitely given higher priority to sanitation. However, challenges around implementation continue to persist. For example, while the common person knows about the programme and what it entails, he or she does not necessarily understand what is to be done. Knowing he or she should use a toilet and if eligible, will get an incentive on making and using one, is not the same as knowing what to make and how to use it. For a person who has defecated in the open since childhood, adjusting to a toilet takes time. It also takes time to engineer social change that is needed for this to happen.

Several champions have emerged across the country – local people, officers, elected representatives – to lead by example. This is a welcome outcome and shows the potential of local leadership. But what’s missing is institutionalising the processes that lead to success with sanitation. An individual will lead for only so long, the system needs to take up the cause and run with it. Sanitation has succeeded in some districts because the administration launches the campaign in mission mode to complete a ‘target’ within a given time. The system gears up for this but its innate functioning needs to change.

Trained motivators, masons and others were a missing link. Several states have addressed this in creative ways. More people are needed to make this a mass movement. As funds are not a problem this army of sanitation workers can be rewarded for their efforts.

Technical issues still remain a problem area – localizing nationally mandated designs for toilets, where to make them so as not to contaminate water and ensuring they meet the needs of the disabled – should be addressed. Equity in planning and execution is another area for improvement especially intra-GP inequities where affluent villages in a GP garner most of the resources.

I hope you will continue to provide your comments and inputs on this theme. Please note, you can continue doing so while we move to the second theme from tomorrow.

Regards
Nitya Jacob
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