Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

“Swachh Bharat” needs a change of mind set to be successful


Mr. Modi’s “Swachh Bharat” campaign is going to be as effective as its adoption rate by fellow Indians. Indians need to consciously choose to live in a clean environment, use clean water, use clean energy, etc. While the “Swachh Bharat” campaign may have stirred some interest in this area, in order to be successful, it needs a change of mind set.

In 2014, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) storming into power, Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, launched the “Swachh Bharat”, or Clean India movement that has taken the nation by storm. The slogan has most definitely stirred the torpor of the populace and has awakened the need for cleanliness.

Although for decades, there has been a need to instil a need for cleanliness amongst India’s citizens, Mr. Modi seems to have capitalized on this momentum and has “patented” the term “Swachh Bharat”.

Although currently the government’s focus is to address the issues of cleanliness at the citizen’s level, social activists feel that the Government’s initiative should also cover cleanliness vis-a-vis sewage disposal, energy and water. Access to clean water is a massive problem facing the country. As per an UNICEF and a Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report, water borne diseases affect 37.7 million Indians, of which 1.5 million are affected by diarrhoea.

As per the report, the root cause of the problem is not so much the lack of availability or access to clean water, but an unwillingness to change and adopt newer methods. Kavneet Kaur, a field manager at Development Alternatives (DA) says, “From the field, we observed that the lack of adoption of water purification techniques is not due to low awareness levels and it was not even illiteracy, as is often assumed. There was an evident lack of effort and prioritisation of safety among people to undertake one or more options consistently that made drinking water safe.”

Slum dwellers for example “opted for methods that did not cost their pocket a penny. Those who did have access to cheaper methods of treatment, like chlorination and solar water disinfection (SODIS), avoided adopting these methods because they were time consuming,” explained Kaur, who has been working at the DA, in Bundelkhand, central India, for the last 30 years.

Of the three inter-related components of hygiene, water and sanitation, Dr K. Vijaya Lakshmi, DA Vice President, says that “hygiene behaviour has been shown to have the biggest impact on community health. [However] “despite its merit as the most cost effective public health intervention, ironically there was no global target to improve hygiene during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era. It has become evident that the MDG framework has fallen short of addressing quality, sustainability and equity issues.”

Despite stiff resistance from the local populace, DA has reached out to more than 26 schools and 50,000 households and has carried out intensive workshops in villages, offering training on how to best make use of safe and simple water treatment methods such as boiling, chlorination, sieving and SODIS. 

Apart from these, DA has also come up with simple and novel innovations such as the Jal-TARA Water filter, which removes pathogens, excess iron, and arsenic from a contaminated water source, TARA Acqua+ which uses a mix of sodium hypochlorite to purify contaminated water, and the TARA AcquaCheck Vial, a device which detects the presence of pathogens in water.

These innovations can work and benefit the populace only as much as its adoption rate. Similarly, the “Swachh Bharat” campaign will be as popular as the number of number of Indians who change their mind set and adopt this new way of thinking, not just in terms of their own private space, but for a cleaner environment, clean water, clean energy, etc.
This idea has also been the driving force behind a youth-led social media campaign known as CLEAN-India ‘The City I Want’. Launched by SA, it initially covers ten cities such as Rishikesh, Nashik, Mirzapur, Mussoorie, Ambala, Vadodara, Mohali, Indore, Alwar and Bharatpur. 

Community Led Environment Action Network (CLEAN) India is an environmental awareness, assessment, action and advocacy programme that promotes behavioural changes amongst the youth in cities. So far, it has mobilised 300 schools, 800 teachers, 28 NGOs and more than 1 million students.

“Going forward, it is crucial that civil society organisation practitioners interface with academic institutions in evidence gathering and inform policy-makers and investors in order to create enabling conditions where scalable innovation can flourish,” says Lakshmi.