ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Swachh Bharat Mission and Vulnerable Populations

An in-depth accounting of toilet coverage is more vital than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic makes its way through India. While independent research is still emerging, available data is used to consider existing sanitation gaps in relation to the Swachh Bharat Mission’s objectives and claims, focusing on populations who are already at greater risk of compounded impacts from COVID-19. At a time when misinformation around current events and health issues abounds worldwide, good leadership must set an example by fostering ethics around data transparency.

COVID-19, a previously unidentified form of the coronavirus, continues to sweep through India after the expiration of stay-at-home ­orders. Yet, many are wondering how people without adequate access to a ­toilet and household water are going to avoid transmission of the disease.

On 2 October 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a crowd, ann­ouncing the completion of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (or Swachh Bharat Mission [SBM]) with the declaration that with the construction of more than 110 million toilets, India was now open defecation free (ODF). “The whole world is amazed to hear this,” he said, as reported by Al Jazeera (Kuchay 2019). The accuracy of this rose-coloured declaration has been questioned from many corners, however, with more det­ailed data coming from the recently rel­eased 2018 National Sample Survey (NSS). Figure 1 (p 18) illustrates changes in household-level improved sanitation coverage up to and including the SBM’s time span.

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Updated On : 8th Dec, 2020

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