India File

‘If this was an infrastructure programme, there would be no problem’

Updated on: Oct 24, 2016
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A huge white board hangs in the office of Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. There are three sets of numbers on it. The first figure represents the number of villages, the second is of those successfully brought under the Swachh Bharat programme and the third, well, it foxes you. It is the number of days that Iyer, who is on contract with the Government, has. Acknowledging that the task is not easy, Iyer tells BusinessLine about Swachh Bharat’s behavioural challenge.

Feedback from Varanasi, and the villages adopted by Prime Minister is that a lot needs to be done. Are there issues of implementation?

No, it is more of a behavioural issue. Behavioural change is difficult to get done because you are dealing with a centuries-old ingrained habit of people going out (to defecate) and then getting people to talk about it. This is not about building a toilet. If this was an infrastructure programme, there would be no problem.

At a recent Council of Ministers Meeting, PM asked each Ministry/department to make their own programme. What was the response?

The main difference between Swachh Bharat and earlier programmes -- this is the first time an Indian Prime Minister has made sanitation a national scheme and it is now moving from a sarkari (government) scheme to a jan andolan (mass movement). There is a sunset clause: October 2019 deadline; earlier programmes were all open ended. So here there is a sense of urgency.

This is a human behaviour change programme. It’s accelerating, but going to take time and its difficult, may not succeed everywhere. Sanitation has to become everyone’s business whether it’s the Pradhan or the collector or the Member of Parliament.

How are you targeting the audience on behavioural change? In what ways you are using multi-media?

There are two parts of behaviour change. There is the mass media component. Then you have interpersonal component.

We are doing three spots (TV ads) specifically for rural areas where Amitabh Bachchan has talked about the ills of defecating in the open. He is doing it for free. Then we have local heroes like Jashpur Jhankaar band that is promoted by Panchayat Sacheev in one of the villages in Madhya Pradesh. We are also promoting nukkad nataks (street plays).

We are operating through Prime Minister, Chief Minister, District Magistrate, VM (village mukhiya) formula. We are also creating an army of Swachhagrahis.

Data from Swachch Bharat Kosh shows that it has not attracted much response. Why?

Let me explain. There are three sources of funds. The major source is through the government — Union budget and the state budget. This year, for example, we have got budget allocation of ₹9,000 crore. This is supplemented by ₹6,000 crore by states. (60:40 ratio). This goes towards paying ₹12,000 to beneficiaries as incentive to build toilets.

Then we have Swachh Bharat Kosh. When this Kosh was set up two years ago, they had collected about ₹420 crore. What happened was after the first flush, when PM appealed to people: Mata Anandmayee wrote a cheque, L&T gave some money, but it was mainly PSUs (who gave money).

The Kosh is maintained by the Finance Ministry. So when we both saw nothing was happening, we both worked on it. We asked who is marketing it, who is doing the road shows? We found nobody was doing it. Then we decided we will do it ourselves.

The advantage of the Kosh is that its more flexible than our sarkari money. It can go to anyone who is doing something on Swachh Bharat. It’s flexible in the sense that the state government of Odisha can ask directly for that money.

Published on January 16, 2018

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