“Civilisation is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta,” says famous author Brian W. Aldiss.

One of the aims of the Swachh Bharat Mission, a flagship programme of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, was to bring about behavioural change in the people towards cleanliness. Besides, sanitation is very crucial for public health.  According to a report released by a not-for-profit organisation, WaterAid America, in 2015, nearly half a million babies in the world die every year due to infections caused by unhygienic conditions.

A World Health Organization (WHO) report on water, sanitation and hygiene, which looked at facilities in developing and least developed countries, reveals that 38 per cent don't have access to an adequate water source, 19 per cent don't have sanitary enough conditions and 35 per cent do not have water and soap for hand-washing. In India, it is estimated that a poor household, on an average, spends more than Rs 7,000 a year on health care, which is very high, given their income levels. Therefore, it is important for government agencies to address basic hygiene services for tackling health problems such as epidemics, infections and newborn deaths.

The government, through its aggressive awareness campaign, has managed to drive home the importance of cleanliness. The Mission has rural and urban sub-missions and budgetary provisions for them are being provided separately through the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) and the Ministry of Urban Development, respectively.

The Swachh Bharat Mission had made tremendous progress and the sanitation cover in rural areas has gone up from 42 per cent to 60 per cent. As the Mission enters the third year of its implementation, there are renewed efforts in not only sustaining the momentum achieved so far but introducing innovative measures to expand the reach and efficacy of the programme.

The Mission envisages a clean India by 2019, coinciding with Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, which, according to the MDWS, shall mean enhancing the levels of cleanliness in rural areas through solid and liquid waste management and making gram panchayats Open Defecation Free (ODF), clean and sanitised. According to the MDWS, since October 2, 2014, 3.34 crore household toilets have been built out of the expected 12 crore toilets to be built in rural areas by 2019. To push the scheme in urban areas, the government has introduced ranking of towns and cities in sanitation. The Urban Development Ministry, which is supposed to build 1.04 crore individual household toilets in urban areas by 2019, has constructed 29.97 lakh toilets. Besides, 1.14 lakh community and public toilets have been set up since 2014.

The Union Budget 2017-18 has earmarked Rs 20,011 crore for the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation which oversees the implementation of Swachh Bharat Gramin and National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP). Out of this, the Swachh Bharat Gramin gets Rs 13,948.27 crore for 2017-18 against Rs 10,500 crore in the previous year.