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Gram Panchayats: Beyond ODF Lessons That Shaped Swachh Bharat

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  • Published
    2nd Jan, 2020

History of sanitation Program

  • Lack of universal sanitation coverage has been a cause for concern since India’s independence. Even during a time, when nutritional and health indicators were tracking progress, sanitation’s own progress curve grew sluggishly.
  • The negative implications of open defecation was widely accepted at that time but many acknowledged that there were also structural forces such as entrenched social norms, power dynamics within social strata, and gender exclusive taboos that influenced the uptake of healthy sanitation practices and private investment in the related behavior.
  • This meant that even during 1970s and 1980s, when national vaccine programmes were experiencing a relatively high rate of coverage, sanitation coverage averaging a growth rate of 1 percent annually.
  • Government of India signed constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1946. It was also in favor of the resolutions made at 1977 Mar Del Planta UN water conference.
  • India was also the signatory to the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation since 2010 at the UN general assembly.
  • India has also set targets of Sustainable Development Goals much sooner than set by UNDP.

Sanitation Strategy by current government

  • The approach to SBM-G Itself was structured to allow more freedom in execution and a few unique advances included:
  • Strong public and political willpower
  • Adequate funding
  • District-level flexibility in administering the necessary activities and campaigns to increase coverage,
  • Improving the ratio of financial investment in hardware with strong investment in software (i.e. behaviour change communication) with the community-level outcomes (like-ODF status) - not single households in mind.
  • Utilising the Community Approaches to Sanitation (CAS) methodology.
  • Women –headed households and Scheduled and Castes and Tribes prioritised in the programme
  • Concurrently, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj played a more visible role in strengthening Gram Panchayats’ (GPs') ability to provide services, which included SBM-G targets.
  • With the call to shift towards GP ownership, there have been efforts to strengthen the 3 Fs available to GPs: Funds, Functionaries, and Functions.
  • Through the national Gram Panchayat Develmopment Plans (GPDP) guidance of 2018, Ministry of Panchayati Raj has made efforts to ensure that GDPDs are appropriately convergent in reflecting how WASH investments and interventions can be mainstreamed into existing budgetary considerations.

Giving Gram Panchayatss The Central Role                                 

  • In the States where GPs played a pivotal role, this progressive investment in Gram Panchayat leadership and ownership stood out under SBM-G as compared to the roll-out of earlier programmes.
  • In addition, rural families were more apt to pick up guidance issued by their local leaders. This belief has been incorporated in the efforts to transition of India, from its recent achievement of hitting its goal of reaching 100 million households with safe sanitation, to the next phase of programmes.
  • To frame the new phase, in September 2019, the MoJS released a newly drafted 10-year Rural Sanitation Strategy, which lays down the steps to be taken till 2029 to ensure that sanitation access is sustained and further developed.
  • India is working towards this long-term vision of ODF Plus. This is necessary for India to sustain its achievement towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, especially SDG 6.2 which is, 'By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.'

ODF Plus: Key Interventions To Be Focused Upon

    • Sustained usage of Individual Household Latrines
    • Ensuring no one is left behind and providing sanitation access to new households 
    • Sanitation coverage of public spaces (through public and community toilets) 
    • Implementation of Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) in rural areas including compost pits/decentralized waste treatment facilities 
    • Visible cleanliness, and solid and liquid waste management 
  • Apart from currently adopting framework of ODF+, government of India has further decided to adopt ODF++ framework which will focus on more sustainable and community oriented approach of waste management and cleanliness.

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