New Delhi, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is arguably the most successful scheme launched by the Central Government so far.
There has, in the past, been a general distrust of government schemes. The principal reason for this is that either the benefits don’t reach the targeted or that the projected parameters are never achieved. However, the Abhiyan is arguably the most successful one, Mr Jaitley wrote in his Facebook blog.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Swachhata campaign in his Independence Day Speech of 2014, some believed that the scheme would be a photo-opportunity with very little progress. In the history of independent India, this is the one scheme which the people of India snatched away from the Government and converted into a ‘people’s movement’, Mr Jaitley said.
He said, “When the scheme was announced, the rural sanitation coverage of India was 39 per cent. The Prime Minister announced a target that India be made ‘open-defecation free’ when we celebrate 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019. The symbolism was appropriate since Gandhiji had given a lot of emphasis on Swachhata.
“As we have completed nearly four years of the scheme, 39 per cent rural sanitation coverage has increased to a phenomenal 92 per cent. This was not an easy goal to achieve. This involved a behavioural change of the people. Many in the rural areas were initially reluctant.”
On role of women in the Abhiyan, Mr Jaitley wrote everybody knows that the dignity of women demands the privacy of toilet. However, women of India are now stepping beyond their roles as mere beneficiaries of this programme to leaders of it today. For example, construction of toilets has always been a male bastion.
In many states, however, thousands of rural women have been trained as masons and, with the assistance of self-help groups, are now becoming the primary force in driving a state to be declared free from open defecation. Women becoming a bread earner through construction of toilets added to the family income.
The hygiene, the Minister said, in the utilization of the toilet is also a preventive healthcare scheme. Global experts believe that the SBM will have saved over three lakh lives in the country by the time the country becomes ‘open-defecation free’ in 2019. Toilets in several parts of India have been named “Izzat Ghar”.
The Government has made available all the funds required for making this scheme a success. This scheme will go a long way in improving the quality of life of India’s rural population, particularly women.
With rural roads, rural electrification, rural Awas Yojana, toilets and a cooking gas connection with foodgrain provided at a modest cost, the quality of life of India’s rural poor will get a quantum jump. Additionally, when the Ayushman Bharat, which provides upto Rs 5 lakh per family per year as hospitalisation expense, is fully implemented, this will change the quality of life of India’s rural population, he added.
On revision of remuneration to the Anganwadi workers, he said the Anganwadi workers are the mainstay of the National Nutrition Mission. There are approximately 12.9 lakh Anganwadi workers and 11.6 lakh Anganwadi helpers in position. These benefits would be available to these 24.9 lakh Anganwadi workers and their families.
This has been a long term demand of the Anganwadi workers and their helpers to give them a reasonable remuneration. Governments in the past have always refrained from giving benefits to these 2.5 million workers ostensibly on revenue consideration. Notwithstanding the pressure on the Budget, the Government has given almost a 50 per cent hike in the first go to these workers. This will go a long way in addressing the grievance of these workers.