#ChildhoodMatters Episode 5: The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and its flaws

Panellists discuss the WaterAid Report on the state of the world's toilets 2017, which claims that 732 million Indians do not have access to safe sanitation and 321 children are dying every day of diseases.

ByBiraj Swain
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#ChildhoodMatters Episode 5: The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and its flaws
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On the occasion of World Toilet Day, November 19, Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor, The Caravan magazine, Prof Partha Mukhopadhyay, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research and chair of the Centre’s Govt of India’s NSSO Committee on Sanitation and Nitya Jacob, Convenor, Sustainable Sanitation Alliance discuss with Biraj Swain, Consulting Editor, Newslaundry and ICFJ Fellow, the status of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan three years after its launch by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

They discuss the WaterAid Report on the state of the world’s toilets 2017, which claims that 732 million Indians do not have access to safe sanitation and 321 children are dying every day of diarrhoeal diseases. They speak on the Central government’s reaction to the WaterAid report. The panellists said The Caravan‘s May cover story on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan which took a close and detailed look at the programme in Varanasi, the prime minister’s own constituency, his previous constituency in Ahmedabad’s Maninagar and Delhi.

Prof Mukhopadhyay explains why behaviour change, water connectivity, sewage networks and financial transparency are crucial for this flagship programme. Hartosh Bal raises the problematic silence over caste in the programme and the lack of independent evaluation and Nitya Jacob calls for granular, robust studies, transparency in research methodologies and need for government’s reception of the same.

They discuss the need for the government to engage with critical findings and taking feedback for reforming/fixing the programme rather than reacting adversarially. Prof Mukhopadhyay weighs the government’s response to the WaterAid report and emphasises the importance of researchers to share their methodology and stand by their reports as much as journalists need to stand by their reports. Hartosh Bal flags the lack of data for marginalised communities’ access and Biraj laments the trend of government’s censoring of critical research findings and self-censorship amongst researchers.

They conclude that the Swachh Bharat is a public agenda, and everyone is part of the same team, hence government needs to take the critical feedback with as much sincerity, instead of reacting and shutting them down.

Watch the full discussion here: 

Recommended reading:

  1. The Caravan magazine’s May 2015 cover story, Down the drain: How the Swachh Bharat Mission is heading for failure
  2. WaterAid report, Out of order: The state of world’s toilets 2017

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