Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched on October 2, 2014, by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the legacy of Gandhian ethos. A Swachh Bharat was one of Gandhi’s most prized ideals, and it was his faith in the cause that enabled our country to make such significant strides forward in this journey. At the end of 2014, approximately 550 million people practised open defecation, with about 250 million no longer doing so. The Abhiyan’s intent that it is crucial to focus on sanitation and cleanliness, as well as on eliminating open defecation in India by 2019. Sanitation coverage had already increased from 42% in October 2014 to 60% in May 2017. This represents a significant improvement. Several missions of the Abhiyan have been divided into urban and rural missions, which are overseen by the Ministries of Urban Development (MoUD) and Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS), respectively.
The idea of Swachhta is likely correct, but it is expected that the concept of a Swastha Bharat, if not a Swachh Bharat, is incorrect. At the moment, this global pandemic, i.e., COVID-19, has taught us a valuable lesson. If you are not Swachh, then you are not Swasth; there should be no doubt that Swachhta does not only refer to the cleanliness of the body, but also to the cleanliness of the mind, because if you think about the Swachhta of your body, you should think about the Swachhta of your mind by making a firm determination to keep the Swachhta of your mind, and this is perhaps the principle of Swachhta going forward. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not just about making toilets- it’s a social revolution, the revolution that ends the socio-cultural customs of discrimination which is based on caste, creed, and end of the inhumane practice of defecation in open fields. Prime Minister Modi, based on Gandhian principles, had intended to make India a clean country where each individual start practicing sanitation instead of going in open spaces. This drive, according to him, shall not be limited only in the construction of toilets and proper sanitation. Up to until 2014, merely 500 million Indians had been engaging in open defecation.
Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat
One of the most significant contributions of Swachhta Bharat to Swasth Bharat is the control of communicable diseases. Inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices have been significant contributors to diseases like cholera, typhoid, and diarrheal diseases. By promoting clean sanitation facilities, proper waste management, and personal hygiene, Swachhta Bharat has succeeded in reducing the prevalence of these diseases, thereby improving public health. Improved sanitation and access to clean water have a direct impact on maternal and child health. In rural areas, many women and children used to suffer from diseases caused by contaminated water sources and lack of proper sanitation facilities. Swachhta Bharat has brought about a substantial reduction in maternal and child mortality rates by ensuring access to clean water and safe sanitation, leading to healthier pregnancies and reduced child mortality. Air pollution is a pressing health concern in India, and it has severe implications for respiratory health. Swachhta Bharat’s emphasis on cleanliness has indirectly contributed to mitigating air pollution. Proper waste management practices reduce the burning of waste, which is a major source of air pollution. Cleaner streets also encourage people to use non-polluting modes of transport like bicycles and walking, reducing vehicular emissions. Swachhta Bharat is not just about infrastructure development; it also emphasizes hygiene education. Educational campaigns have raised awareness about the importance of handwashing, proper waste disposal, and the dangers of open defecation. Such education fosters a culture of cleanliness and hygiene, leading to healthier lifestyles among the populace. A clean and hygienic environment attracts tourists and investors. Swachhta Bharat’s efforts to maintain clean cities and tourist destinations have not only boosted tourism but also attracted investment, leading to economic growth. A healthier economy can invest more in healthcare infrastructure, which is crucial for a Swasth Bharat. One of the most significant impacts of Swachh Bharat is the reduction in waterborne diseases. Access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities plays a pivotal role in maintaining good health. By promoting the construction of toilets and improving sewage systems in rural areas, the campaign has significantly reduced the incidence of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid. This has led to an improvement in the overall health and well-being of millions of Indians. Before the launch of Swachh Bharat, open defecation was a widespread practice in rural India. This practice not only posed a risk to public health but also infringed upon the dignity of individuals, particularly women. The campaign’s emphasis on building toilets and promoting their usage has not only improved sanitation but also brought about a positive behavioral change. Reduced open defecation has led to a decrease in the spread of diseases and a healthier population. Proper waste disposal is another critical aspect of Swachh Bharat. The management of solid waste ensures a cleaner environment and reduces the breeding grounds for disease vectors such as mosquitoes and rats. Efficient waste management, including waste segregation, recycling, and disposal, not only promotes cleanliness but also contributes to reducing the burden of diseases like dengue, malaria, and leptospirosis. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has not only focused on infrastructural development but has also aimed to bring about a behavioral change in the Indian population. Awareness campaigns and community engagement initiatives have educated people about the importance of cleanliness and sanitation in maintaining good health. This shift in mindset has had a profound impact on personal hygiene practices and community health. Cleanliness also has a significant impact on mental health. A clean and hygienic environment can improve overall well-being and reduce stress and anxiety levels. Swachh Bharat’s efforts to create cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing public spaces contribute to the mental well-being of citizens, indirectly promoting Swasth Bharat.
Swachh Bharat brings the economic prosperity
A Swachh Bharat also contributes to economic prosperity, which is essential for a Swasth Bharat. A cleaner and more attractive India is more likely to attract tourists and foreign investments. The tourism industry, in particular, benefits from improved cleanliness and hygiene. Increased tourism and investments lead to economic growth and job creation, which are vital for the well-being of the population. The reduction in the prevalence of waterborne diseases and other health issues due to improved sanitation and hygiene practices can significantly reduce healthcare costs for individuals and the government. Healthy citizens require fewer medical interventions and hospitalizations, resulting in substantial savings. A healthier population is a more productive one. When people are not plagued by illness and disease, they can participate more actively in the workforce and contribute to the country’s economic growth. Swachh Bharat’s impact on health indirectly leads to increased productivity and economic prosperity.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is more than just a cleanliness drive; it is a transformative movement that holds the key to a Swasth Bharat, a healthy and prosperous India. By addressing issues related to sanitation, hygiene, and waste management, the campaign has already made significant strides in improving public health. The reduction in waterborne diseases, prevention of open defecation, solid waste management, behavioral change, and economic benefits all contribute to building a healthier and more prosperous nation. However, the success of Swachh Bharat requires sustained efforts and continued commitment from both the government and the citizens. It is essential to maintain the momentum and ensure that the gains made in cleanliness and public health are not reversed. Swachh Bharat is not just a government initiative; it is a collective responsibility that every Indian must embrace to create a Swasth Bharat – a nation where health and cleanliness go hand in hand, paving the way for a brighter and healthier future for all.