Swachh Bharat Mission: Grameen (SBM-G) Through Behavioural Lens

Sound Public Policies target the minds of the people. They are there to change the behavior of the public to benefit society. One such well-known policy is “Swacch Bharat Mission – Grameen (SBM-G)”. It had shifted its focus from production outputs (i.e. toilet construction) to behavioral outcomes (open-defecation-free [ODF]). It focused on active involvement by citizens across both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the program.

Phase 1 of SBM-G was launched on 2nd October 2014 on the occasion of Gandhiji’s birth anniversary. Then, the rural sanitation coverage in the country was 38.7%. Subsequent efforts of the SBM-G program had resulted in the rural areas in all states declaring themselves open defecation-free (ODF) on October 2, 2019, Over 10 crore individual toilets were constructed during that period.

Setting Up the Context

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opined, “Cleanliness cannot be achieved through budget allocation. Behavior change is the solution. It should become a mass movement (Jan Andolan).” The efforts and strategies of the Indian government resulted in sanitation behavior change.

Intensive information-education-communication (IEC) efforts by the Centre and states instilled the importance of sanitation into the public conscience. It focused on educating the masses about the prevailing diseases caused by insanitation. It prioritized behavior change communication (BCC) by committing budgets for behavior change. Up to 8 percent of the financial investment of around US $30 billion over 4-5 years in sanitation was dedicated to BCC and capacity building. Again, disbursement of the BCC funds had been a pre-condition for states to receive further central funding under SBM-G.

Community Mobilisation

SBM-G used Community Approaches to Sanitation (CAS). It leveraged the swachhagrahis (foot soldiers of SBM-G) who acted as motivators for bringing about behavior change. It inculcated a feeling of disgust and aversion towards open defecation through early morning nigrani (monitoring). For instance, Indore’s ‘Roko And Toko’ pushed to stop open defecation; “Gabbar is Back” in Delhi by telling Basanti not to defecate in open as shown in the picture below.

In order to engage people in pro-sanitation behaviors, SBM-G used both mid-media and mass media. Wall paintings, exhibitions, song and drama activities, Gaurav (pride) yatras, Street plays, and community radio acted as a mid-media at district and gram panchayat level. Mass media mechanisms such as National SBM Ambassadors served as role models; Campaigns in regional Indian languages; Use of TV content, print media, hoardings for reinforcing audio-visual campaign; extensive use of social media created the large-scale awareness about cleanliness and sanitation at State and National Level.

Apart from the traditional ways, SBM-G also engaged youth through Swachh Bharat internships. Interns were required to complete 100 hours of sanitation-related work in villages and top performers received awards. Many women showed leadership by taking part in Swachh Shakti – a convention for women champions in Gujarat & Uttar Pradesh. SBM-G proved to be a massive outreach program to engage stakeholders from different walks of life.

Service to the Society

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” said Gandhi. On these lines, the Swachhata Hi Seva (Cleanliness Is Service) called for the acceleration of the Jan Andolan or people’s movement between 2017 and 2018. Ministries, schools, youth, civil society, and corporates came together to contribute towards the campaign by organizing awareness initiatives, cleanliness drives, tree plantations, street beautification, and more. This huge participation of 100 million citizens in 2017 and had doubled to nearly 200 million in2018. This generated a sense of service to society.

Similarly, a week-long campaign named ‘Satyagraha se Swachhagraha’ (“from insistence on truth to insistence on cleanliness”) honored 20,000 exemplary swachhagrahis from around the country. They traveled to Champaran in the State of Bihar to trigger behavior change. This campaign reminded the historical significance and contribution of Mahatma Gandhi towards sanitation.

Path Towards Sustainability

Recently, Phase 2 of the SBM-G was launched for 2020-21 and 2024-25. It aims for ODF Plus, which means sustainable ODF status and improved solid and liquid waste management. According to a press release by Press Information Bureau (PIB) on June 2021, SBM-G Phase 2 made steady progress amidst COVID-19 Pandemic with 1249 villages declared ODF Plus.

The undergoing Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2021– India’s largest rural cleanliness survey aims to cover around 17000+ villages and provide All-India districts ranking as well. It assesses the state of hygiene, cleanliness, and sanitation in rural India as a part of the Centre’s initiative to award Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus status to villages. Thus, instilling a sense of competition amongst the villages to remain ODF. It also acts as a feedback mechanism for many villages to strive for ODF status. 

Behavioural Insights

During Phase 1, SBM-G emphasized sustainable change by not only persuading the people but also educating them. The government of India identified the issues in earlier policies related to sanitation and also identified the causes for the resistance to change. The resistance had resulted from unsanitary habits and inflexible communication. Intensive behavior change communication, community mobilization, and advocacy overcame these. Governments use Social Marketing Strategies for Sanitation Promotion such as Positioning Statements, Brand Building–Using Gandhi as a brand, perception management through contextualization, etc.

Policy practitioners applied theories and models of change, evaluated the outcome continuously, facilitated broken communications, and nudged people towards pro-sanitary behaviors. Today, socially accepted norms of open defecation in India have been fading away and being replaced with the use of toilets and latrines in rural India.

To sum up with an example of Kunwar Bai, a 106-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh who had never even seen a toilet for about 100 years of her life. However, with the launch of the SBM-G, she realized its significance and sold off the goats- her only assets and built two toilets in her home. After this, she created awareness about having toilets by inviting fellow villagers to her house to show them the benefits. She is a perfect example of Clean India Campaign’s success.

It shows how habits and mindsets can be changed at any age. All that matters is an individual’s willingness to change, adapt, and sustain the process. Whether you are a politician, a policy practitioner, or a common citizen, the only question before you is “Are you willing?”

About Vivek Meshram

Vivek is an IUCN Commission Member at CEESP- Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, an Influencer at International Council for Circular Economy (ICCE) and is also aspiring to join the Indian Administrative Service (I.A.S.).

He is an enthusiast learner, a vivid observer of Indian polity, economy and environment. He writes about behavioural public policies.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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