Investment in sanitation mission is an investment towards integrity: Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

New Delhi: Mr Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Cabinet Minister, Ministry of Jal Shakti today said that India’s sanitation mission has received unprecedented success and investment in this is the smartest form of investment. The government is committed to taking sanitation to the next level and the country is now primed for a toilet revolution, he added.

Addressing the inaugural session of ‘4th ISC-FICCI Sanitation Awards and India Sanitation Conclave’, organized by FICCI, Mr Shekhawat said, with an ROI of over 400 per cent, India made a smart choice of investing over USD 20 billion on sanitation. It is based on the 4-Ps of the Indian sanitation story- political will, public financing, people participation and partnerships.

“We have not only worked towards the construction of toilets but also towards a behavioural change of almost 60 crore people in India. The ministry has prepared a scheme to recycle and reuse the household greywater and bio-waste and convert this waste into wealth,” added Mr Shekhawat.

Mr Shekhawat mentioned that the grants and assistance given to the states under the Swachh Bharat Mission provides a huge opportunity for the states to free the country from solid and liquid waste management. “To make sanitation mission sustainable, we will work from the perspective of ODF Plus. Substantial investments have been planned in making solid and liquid waste arrangements in villages so that people continue to realise sustainable health and hygiene benefits,” he added.

India has constructed 50,000 toilets in the recent months which, in turn, provided huge employment opportunities during COVID-19. Mr Shekhawat also said that the India Sanitation Coalition at FICCI has been making significant contributions to the Sanitation discourse in this country and is a valuable partner of Government of India.

Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister, Housing & Urban Affairs, Govt. of India said, “We have achieved Swachhta in India under the Swachh Bharat Mission that has turned into a Jan Andolan.”

“Today, 66 lakh individual household toilets have been constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission Urban. He further mentioned that despite the concept of ODF+ being unknown and unappreciated till the launch of the mission in 2014, we have over 1300 cities already notified as being ODF+ today. And by 2022, we will have all the cities made ODF+,” he added.

The ‘treat component’ he said, in the sanitation value chain assumes extra significance amid the COVID-19 outbreak as we look to build the immunity of our citizens through good hygiene.

“India Sanitation coalition has a critical role to play supported by its corporate partners and members of the coalition. The expertise and resources of the private sector must be leveraged for solid and liquid waste management services. The intent is to promote a scalable and commercially viable solution to make the sanitation economy attractive to private businesses,” added Mr Puri.

Mr Arun Baroka, Additional Secretary, DDWS, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Govt of India said that people’s participation or a Jan Andolan was mandatory to achieve the success of sustainable sanitation. “To certify total cleanliness in villages, we have to ensure solid and liquid waste management,” he added.

Ms Naina Lal Kidwai, Past President, FICCI and Chair, India Sanitation Coalition said, “Sanitation is finally centre stage in India. It required focussed efforts of the government with strong support from the Prime Minister and the top leadership to make this into a Jan Andolan – a people’s movement.”

She further said that it is critical to look at the treatment of faecal sludge and the SDG target 6.2, to help us understand how sanitation impacts many aspects of the country’s growth.

Dr Sangita Reddy, President, FICCI said that today, over 4,000 Urban Local Bodies in the urban and more than 6,00,000 villages in rural India have already been declared open defecation free. She further expressed her contentment that 60,000 public toilets in nearly 3,000 cities have also been listed on Google map for live tracking, leading to their improved functionality with bearing on ODF sustainability. “The mission in its unique ways represents the opportunities for convergent and co-financing model where private sector participation is indispensable,” said Dr Reddy.

As we move to the next phase, we must not just look at public awareness or behaviour change, not just look at building the toilets but also maintaining them, she noted.

Dr R A Mashelkar, National Research Professor and Chair, Awards Jury said that even a few years ago, the idea of open defecation free India was a dream but within five years it was made possible. The inspiring dream of a defecation free India was announced by our Prime Minister and this aspirational mission had an amazing execution and the magic is here for us to see.