Arun Jaitley boasts about 'phenomenal' success of Swachh Bharat 'people's movement', says it improved quality of life

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 population, or that the projected parameters are never achieved. However, there are schemes with a difference. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is arguably the most successful one.

File image of Union minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters

File image of Union minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

When the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, announced the Swachhata (cleanliness) 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 one scheme that the people of India snatched from the government and converted into a 'people's movement'.

When the scheme was announced, the rural sanitation coverage of India was 39 percent. The prime minister had 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 percent rural sanitation coverage has increased to a phenomenal 92 percent. This was not an easy goal to achieve. This involved a behavioural change of the people. Many in the rural areas were initially reluctant.

But this 'people's movement' has today transformed into a 'women's movement', with rural women playing a leading role in the programme. We all knew that the dignity of women demanded the privacy of a toilet. However, women of India are now stepping beyond their roles as mere beneficiaries of this programme to its leaders today. For example, the 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, they are now becoming the primary force in driving a state to be declared free from open defecation. Women becoming breadwinners through the construction of toilets add to their family incomes.

The hygiene in the utilisation of a toilet is also a preventive healthcare scheme. Global experts believe that the SBM (Swachh Bharat Mission) will have saved over three lakh lives in the country by the time we become 'open-defecation free' in 2019. Toilets in several parts of India have been named "izzat ghar". This is the first time that the subject matter in the toilet construction campaign has taken the focus of the national agenda. It has become a subject matter of popular discussion. The Government of India 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 connections with food grains provided at a modest cost, the quality of life of India's rural poor will get a quantum jump. Additionally, when the Ayushman Bharat scheme, which provides up to 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 further.

Revision of amounts paid to anganwadi workers and helpers

The central government announced its decision to enhance the compensation paid to anganwadi workers and ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers. 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.

The remuneration of anganwadi workers has been raised from Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500 per month; the pay of mini anganwadi workers has been increased from Rs 2,250 to Rs 3,500; the remuneration of anganwadi helpers has been increased from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,250 per month.

These workers will also get an incentive of Rs 500 per month and Rs 250 per month, respectively, on the basis of the real-time monitoring of their performance. The government had earlier made a significant increase in the cost norms for both pregnant and lactating mothers and for severely malnourished children.

This has been a long-term demand of anganwadi workers and their helpers, to give them reasonable remuneration. Governments in the past have always refrained from giving benefits to these 2.5 million workers ostensibly on revenue considerations. Notwithstanding the pressure on the Budget, the government has given almost a 50 percent hike on the first go to these workers. This will go a long way in addressing the grievances of these workers.

This article first appeared on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's official Facebook page.

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Updated Date: Sep 15, 2018 17:04:18 IST

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