National

WASH Effect On Hygiene Governance In India

While our journey towards achieving comprehensive WASH goals may not be complete, we are undeniably well on our way

WASH Effect On Hygiene Governance In India
info_icon

WASH or Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene governance is the compass that guides the delivery of essential water, sanitation and hygiene services. Good WASH governance strives to ensure everyone has access to top-notch services and a clear point of contact for any issues.

The story began in 1986 with the launch of the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) by the Ministry of Rural Development, government of India. CRSP initially aimed at building household toilets and providing hardware subsidies to stimulate demand. However, issues like changing behaviour to combat open defecation and promoting toilet usage were somewhat overlooked back then.

Despite an investment of over Rs 660 crore and construction of more than 9 million toilets across the country, the 2001 Census revealed that a mere 22% of the households had access to safe toilets. This indicated that simply building toilets only sometimes translated into their use. Thus, a fresh approach was needed to achieve sanitation and declare the country open defecation-free (ODF).

This led to the inception of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999, which embraced a community-led approach and emphasised behaviour change communication (BCC) to motivate communities towards adopting safe sanitation practices. It was supplemented by the innovative Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) awards scheme in 2003, which rewarded Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) for achieving ODF status.

Yet, two significant challenges persisted: ensuring the sustainability of interventions and avoiding the sidelining of the poor and marginalised from the programme.

There is a growing consensus now that although the statutory framework for sanitation is gender-neutral in its approach, the policy framework appears to be more progressive and recognises gender-related issues

The Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), launched in 2012, addressed these concerns by focusing on sustainable behaviour change and phased provisioning of sanitary facilities. It adopted a saturation mode to create “Nirmal Grams” or clean villages. With certain conditions, financial incentives for individual household latrine (IHHL) units were expanded to include the above-poverty line (APL) households. Beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) received additional financial support up to Rs 5,400.

However, despite these efforts, sanitation coverage progress during 2012–14 was underwhelming. Clearly, robust policy frameworks alone were insufficient; guarantees were needed to ensure desired outcomes.

Enhancing WASH Governance

In 2012, the government initiated a nationwide baseline survey for sanitation to identify rural households lacking access to toilets. Each gram panchayat reported the number of such families in its  jurisdiction, laying the foundation for the targets of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBMG). This programme was launched in 2014.

On October 2, 2014, the government unveiled SBMG with a mission to make rural areas ODF by October 2, 2019, providing toilets for all rural households. Nearly 11 crore IHHLs sprung up across the nation under this initiative, and all villages proudly declared themselves ODF on October 2, 2019.

The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) in the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, which oversaw the implementation of SBMG across the nation, undertook three rounds of the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) from 2017–18 to 2019–20 through an independent verification agency under World Bank support to SBMG. The idea was to provide performance data to each state to enable it to make course corrections as the mission progressed the implementation in its territory.

Advertisement

As per the results of NARSS 2019–20, the latest round, 99.6% of the households with access to toilets had water availability and 95.2% of the rural population had access to a bathroom and were using it. Furthermore, the government launched the Jal Jeevan Mission in 2019 to provide functional household tap connections to every rural household by 2024, which significantly weighed on the outcome of the earlier mission (SBMG).

info_icon

Gender and WASH Governance

There is a growing consensus now that although the statutory framework for sanitation is gender-neutral in its approach, the policy framework appears to be more progressive and recognises gender-related issues.

The SBMG Phase I guidelines (2017) accordingly recommended that “the requirements and sensitivities related to gender including dignity and safety issues are kept in mind at all stages of sanitation programmes from planning to post-implementation.”

In 2017, DDWS went further to release the guidelines on gender issues in sanitation. These guidelines emphasised the need for women’s participation in the planning and implementing sanitation interventions. However, when it came to implementation, it was realised that WASH-related needs and vulnerabilities of women had yet to be addressed in the way that these were required in the policy framework.

Although the efforts on the part of the stakeholders on the supply side of the programme were substantial, the stakeholders on the demand side would only differentially benefit based on their respective socio-cultural dynamics and the level of collaboration between the government and the communities —often assisted by the private sector and NGOs. But when they all come together, the results are there for anyone to see and appreciate.

Industry Partnership

WASH governance is more complex in our country with its mosaic of socio-cultural heterogeneity, diversities and pluralities integrated into a multicultural federal polity. All interventions should be preceded by exhaustive stakeholder consultations for needs assessment, and then relevant and contextual partnerships should be established or strengthened to carry forward the implementation.

The government has demonstrated this through the Lighthouse Initiative (LHI). The key objective of this initiative is to create model gram panchayats (GPs) that would act as a “lighthouse” for other GPs in terms of local planning for solid and liquid waste management, implementation of innovative technologies and approaches, convergence of funds and effective utilisation of resources for achieving ODF-plus.

Our governance models have been meticulously developed and tested... They evolve continually to address contemporary challenges, ensuring we are on the right path to meet our objectives

The India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) has emerged as a vital partner of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation in the LHI. This visionary initiative has enlisted the support of prominent corporate entities such as ITC, HCL Foundation, Tata Trusts, Ambuja Cement, JSW Foundation, Nayara Energy, Jindal Steel and Power, and many others in its inaugural phase.

In Phase I of this initiative, we have identified 75 GPs across 15 states, aligning with celebrating India’s 75 years of independence. In conjunction with the national and state SBMG missions, we have established these GPs as living examples of community-driven action on SLWM. They showcase responsive service delivery systems, innovative technical solutions, meticulous management and monitoring frameworks, and decentralised operations and maintenance protocols.

Advertisement

While our journey towards achieving comprehensive WASH goals may not be complete, we are undeniably well on our way. We have celebrated the remarkable achievement of 100% toilet access, earned global acclaim for one of the world’s most influential behaviour change programmes in sanitation, and are now fervently working on effective solid and liquid waste management. Our governance models have been meticulously developed and tested, extending from the national level to states and GPs. They evolve continually to address contemporary challenges, ensuring we are on the right path to meet our objectives. 

Naina Lal Kidwai is Chair, India Sanitation Coalition, FICCI.

Advertisement
Important: We are happy to announce that we have successfully completed the migration of our site @outlookindia.com to enhance your experience as valuable user. But due to the scale of operations some data discrepancies may arise. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience and understanding during this period.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement