sulabh swatchh bharat

Sunday, 22-April-2018

‘Modi’fied Bharat

PM Modi announced the Swachh Bharat Mission from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15th, 2014. Things they say now are changing.

·PM Modi’s Swachh campaign is picking up steam and could have a lasting impact on the psyche of this nation

·The campaign is being pushed by the political class, bureaucracy and celebrities

·Modi’s Swachh Bharat is not just about cleaning the streets and building toilets, it is about changing mindsets and behavior

A century ago, Mahatma Gandhi was speaking at the inauguration of the Banaras Hindu University and digressed a bit. 

"I visited the Vishwanath temple last evening, and as I was walking through those lanes, these were the thoughts that touched me,” he told his audience. “If a stranger dropped from above on to this great temple, would he not be justified in condemning us? Is not this great temple a reflection of our own character? Is it right that the lanes of our sacred temple should be as dirty as they are? If even our temples are not models of roominess and cleanliness, what can our self-government be?”

Circa 2014, Narendra Modi takes over as prime minister and his first public call is to invoke Gandhi on Independence Day, to remind his countrymen about the importance of cleanliness and sanitation. His words weren’t mere rhetoric, rather it was a warning: “Talking big has its importance, making announcements too has importance, but sometimes announcements raise hopes and when the hopes are not fulfilled, the society sinks into a state of despondency.”

Two years down and there is a sense of visible change, that the spark the prime minister triggered is now transforming into a nationwide movement, where there is hope that centuries-old habits and mindsets can be changed with effective planning and concerted effort. When a certain Mr. Patel takes ownership of cleaning up the society he lives in, or a Sunita Kumari refuses to enter a house which has no toilet, it is a reminder that big things always start small. 

Cut again to Modi: “If 125 crore countrymen decide that they will never spread filth and dirt, which power in the world can spread filth in our cities and villages?”

Cutting red tape

But when the prime minister called for swachhta, he would have known how difficult a mission it would be. In a nation where the bureaucracy is procedure driven and therefore moves at a snail’s pace, achieving time-bound targets would be difficult. Modi therefore opted for a two-pronged approach. A clear agenda for different ministries and constant push from the PMO was supplemented by a blitzkrieg on the ground to motivate the lower level bureaucracy.  Every ministry was set targets and below is a snapshot of how each went about it.

·       Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation became the nodal ministry to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), under which it was to accelerate efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage, improve cleanliness and eliminate open defecation by 2019. The ministry was to build individual household toilets and community sanitary complexes, provide assistance to manufacturers of sanitary materials, encourage Rural Sanitary Marts and fund solid and liquid waste management projects. Funding for the entire mission was delinked from MGNREGA to avoid unnecessary delays and confusion.

·       Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) was to handle the urban component of Swachh Bharat Mission. It was also given well-defined targets to build Individual Household toilets, Community and Public Toilets and perform end to end solid waste management in all 4041 Urban Local Bodies.

·       The Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry took up the Swachh Vidyalaya initiative to provide new and separate toilets for boys and girls, in all the schools without toilet facility and also repair non-functional toilets. Funds would come from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Rashtriya  Madhyamik  Shiksha Abhiyan and Swachh Bharat Kosh. A unique feature of the funding model was the involvement of Central Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and the corporates, that would be encouraged to use their CSR funds to create a tangible impact.

·       Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the Kayakalp scheme to promote cleanliness, hygiene and infection control practices in public health care facilities. Monetary awards would be given to the best central government hospitals and institutions which would also be periodically assessed.

·       Ministry of Women and Child Development took up the task of providing functional toilets in all the Aanganwadi centres by integrating them with the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

Clear work delegation and activity mapping for each ministry was only the half work done. It was bolstered with adequate implementation capacities in terms of trained personnel, financial incentives and systems and procedures for planning and monitoring. The focus was on behavioural change including interpersonal communication, fixing accountability standards, and effective rewards and consequence systems for the officials involved. Those with good track record were assigned specific tasks and their work tracked.

Since this was the prime minister’s pet project, progress and interventions were monitored by the PMO. In some cases, even the state level officials were hand-picked under the instructions of the PMO. Ministers had a clear direction from the PMO to push the agenda of Swachh Bharat as far as possible. They were asked to follow a participatory approach in terms of implementation. It was the first time in the history of India, that ministers were seen with a broom on the streets. This led to a drastic attitudinal shift in the bureaucracy.

As envisioned by the prime minister, the motivation for Swachh Bharat slowly started trickled to the lower level of bureaucracy. The quintessential tobacco chewing, paan-spitting babus who were at the forefront of on ground execution, got the much required push from their bosses. Every department and office had directives to follow the cleanliness regime and organize awareness campaigns in the areas under them. It brought about a sea change in government offices, until now regarded as the antithesis of cleanliness.

Behavioural shifts of ‘aam aadmi’

PM Modi could have stopped here with his efforts. Slowly and steadily, the bureaucracy would have brought about the desired change. But for Swachh Bharat to become a revolution, the most essential component, ‘aam aadmi’ couldn’t be missed. The aam aadmi, who is generally seen as reluctant to change, didn’t reckon with the persona of the prime minister, who decided to deal with them the aam aadmi way.

A bottom up approach was followed where ‘leaders’ were identified at the Gram Panchayat and Block level. District level officials went full throttle in looking for individuals, post-holders in Panchayats, or otherwise, who could anchor proposed awareness campaigns. They were trained and necessary resources were provided. As they belonged to the same community, these leaders were in a better position to convince people about cleanliness and sanitation.

This proved to be a masterstroke. It utilized the untapped leadership potential at the village and block level. Swachhta didn’t remain confined to awareness, it became a tool of empowerment as well. The efforts of community leaders were suitably rewarded, which provided the much needed impetus to their efforts. The success stories also created a ripple effect by motivating nearby villages and blocks. This is exactly what PM Modi envisioned when he exhorted his 125 crore countrymen to join together and set examples for each other.

The Blitzkrieg

We Indians are fascinated by celebrities. Celebrity endorsements play a major role in our consumption patterns and modulate our behaviours. The prime minister used his own celebrity status and charisma to bring some of the most loved celebrities onboard the swachhta campaign. Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Kamal Haasan, Sachin Tendulkar are just few names. It was only Modi magic that saw Shashi Tharoor, a Congress MP, accept Modi’s invitation to join the campaign. Further, each celebrity nominated more celebrities of their choice and it created a blitzkrieg of online and offline awareness programs. As more and more business and media personalities joined, it made the task of publicity much easier.  

The whole advertisement space, be it print, broadcast, electronic or social media, was flooded with advertisements and announcements related to the Swachh Bharat Mission. PM Modi kept fuelling the built momentum through his speeches on various platform, be it his Mann ki Baat, Independence Day speeches or national conferences. Swachhta, until now an issue of little import in social circles, became the talk of the town. The positive hoopla created around swachhta, gave people much needed confidence in tackling the menace of dirt and filth.

To reiterate, the skeptics had a field day on 2nd October, 2014, when Mr Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission. Even his diehard fans had their doubts. Much water has flown down the Yamuna since then. A lot of work has been done; yet a lot needs to be done. But Mr Modi’s vision combined with time bound execution have turned many heads. He didn’t let his vision die a slow painful death. Instead, he took charge and crafted a movement which will have long-lasting impact on the conscience of this nation.

Statistics are not always the best representation of change. For a country, where every problem was blamed on the scale and where apathy and inaction was pervasive, the result of Modi’s mission can’t be measured in figures and stats. Future generations may have only a dim idea of India’s sanitation revolution and what all it took to achieve, but the ‘Modi’fied India they live in will be a constant reflection of the prime minister’s vision and the herculean effort it took to realise it.