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Gandhiji’s talisman

“Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

First time I read this Jantar (talisman) in my NCERT  textbook, which I could not understand at that time in 6th standard. But now I understand it. And I find it best test to check the success of any decision taken keeping in mind the welfare of the people. So when we are going to enter in the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi, we should check the success of one of the most cherished goal, which Gandhiji had envisaged during the freedom struggle movement, for our society and country, but that goal is yet to compete i.e., CLEAN INDIA. And one of the most important component of it is Open Defecation Free (ODF) India.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, after assuming the charge of full fledge government at the Centre in 2014, announced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, in his first independence day address delivered from the rampart of the Red Fort. He is the second mass leader after Gandhiji appealing to masses directly, for Clean India so vehemently. PM admitted in his speech, the menace of Open Defecation (OD), which was costing dearly to the nation and its people. On 2nd October, 2014 the PM launched cleanliness campaign and made it clear that the befitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, from 125 crore people at his 150th birth anniversary in 2019 would be Clean India i.e. Swachh Bharat. The concept of Swachh Bharat is to provide sanitation facilities to every family, including toilets, solid and liquid waste disposal systems, village cleanliness, and safe and adequate drinking water supply.

Gandhiji during freedom struggle, connected the issue of cleanliness, untouchability and mass movement. His concern for public and private sanitation was part of his satyagraha campaign since the days he spent in South Africa. For him, the drive for cleanliness in society was an integral part of the process in bringing about a casteless and free society. “Everyone is his own scavenger,” said Gandhi, reiterating the fact that the need for making cleanliness a personal responsibility was key to removing untouchability. Sanitation was also considered a necessity by him in order to remove the label attached to Indians being in need for the West’s civilising mission.

But even after seven decades since independence, in 2014 our more than 50 percent rural population was defecating in open. And this was a scourge of the society. Leaders after Gandhiji,  has not given the due regard the cleanliness was to be given in the context of infant republic and its citizens. Thanks to Prime Minister Modiji who raised the issue of cleanliness especially focusing on removing the menace of open defecation.A war footing, multi prong campaign started to giving the person standing last in the line i.e., ecomomically poor, socially weaker , children and women, their due of constitutionally promised right of clean and safe environment. So open defecation free (ODF) India is the prerequisite.

Swachh Bharat Mission having two components- Gramin and Urban. Since 2014 more than  eight crore toilets have been built in rural areas. Toilet coverage of toilets reached to above 90 percent from below 40 percent . 24 states/UTs are declared ODF. Out of 6 lakh villages 5 lakh are now ODF. Under urban component also, toilets have been built along with solid waste management. On infrastructure part government is doing well. But biggest impediment was the perception and attitude towards using toilets in rural areas. So, behavior change is fundamental to the SBM. On this front also government under leadership of PM started mass awareness campaign incorporating people of all ages, caste ,creed, religion, and each socio-economic strata.   Several inter-personal techniques through community approaches to sanitation are being used across the country to trigger behavior change. It includes mass appeal from PM, roping celebrities in the campaign, advertisements, and the President administering SWACHHTA HI SEVA pledge whereby the Nation resolved to create clean healthy and new India.

The moot question is that ODF India under Swachh Bharat Mission serving whom? Probably the answer is –

  • WOMEN- Open defecation was a major blot on Indias’s progress, and major drawback for gender equality in education and safety. The biggest impediment in women empowerment and their personal hygiene. The women from rural India was at the most receiving end. ODF India is an assurance to their health, safety and dignity.
  • CHILDERN- Open defecation is the cause of many water borne, air borne and communicable disease. Children from the economically poor and socially weaker sections are the sufferer. OD free society has started seeing the positive impact in terms of reduction in under five child mortality rate. OD is also the cause of nutrition deficiency in children leading to stunting, wasting and mortality. SBM is step towards healthy Indian future.
  • SOCIALLY MARGINALISED SECTION- Though OD  problem is not restricted to one caste or social community, socially marginalized are the one badly impacted from this menace. Their out of pocket expenditure on health, because of the disease caused by poor sanitation will get reduce, and prevent them from getting trapped in vicious cycle of poverty.


SBM is the scheme beneficial to all Indians especially person standing last in the line. We achieved and progressed substantially in last four years. Attitude and behavior change is slow but we are moving on that front also. One year is still left to achieve the target for paying befitting tribute to father of nation Mahatma Gandhi, and making SWACHH BHARAT, SAMARTH BHARAT.


Sushant Tiwari

Pursuing Law from Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. Having experience of teaching students preparing for CAT, and other B school entrance exams.

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