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, there are schemes with a difference. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is arguably the most successful one.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
When the Prime Minister of India, Shri 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 one scheme which the people of India snatched away from the Government and converted into a ‘people’s movement.’ When the scheme was announced, the rural sanitation coverage of India was 39%. 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% rural sanitation coverage has increased to a phenomenal 92%. 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 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 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 we become ‘open-defecation free’ in 2019. Toilets in several parts of India have been named “Izzat Ghar”. This is for the first time that the subject matter in the toilet construction campaign has taken central stage 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 connection with foodgrain provided at a modest cost, the quality of life of India’s rural poor will get a quantum jump. Additonally when the Ayushman Bharat, which provides upto Rs.5 lakhs per family per year as hospitalisation expense, is fully implemented, this will change the quality of life of India’s rural population.
Revision of Amount Paid to Anganwadi Workers and Helpers
The Central Government has announced the decision to enhance the compensation paid to the Anganwadi workers and the Asha workers. 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.
The remuneration of the Anganwadi workers has been raised from Rs.3000/- to Rs.4500/- per month; the mini Anganwadi workers from Rs.2250/- has been increased to Rs.3500/-. Remuneration of Anganwadi helpers has been increased from Rs.1500/- to Rs.2250/- 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 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 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% hike in the first go to these workers. This will go a long way in addressing the grievance of these workers.