Government launches 'toilet locator' app
The government today launched a new app for smartphones which acts as a 'toilet locator' to find a public restroom for those in need. It is developed by Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) and search engine Google; it will help people find the nearest and cleanest toilets. It will locate not just government-run public restrooms but ones in metro stations, malls, hospitals etc.
What is 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan'?
'Swachh-Bharat Abhiyan' translated as 'Clean India Mission' is a national campaign started by the Narendra Modi led government, to clean the infrastructure and create sanitation facilities to make India 'cleaner'. It covers 4041 statutory towns and cities with the motive of creating a hygienic environment in India. It is considered as the biggest 'cleanliness drive' in India with millions of people participating in it.
Rashtrapati Bhavan sets an example for the nation
'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' was launched on 27 September at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Over 2000 officers and staff of the Presidential estate undertook the initiative to clean three different sections of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The President's secretary, Omita Paul led the initiative. 27-28 September were declared working days at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the initiative continued till 2 October to mark the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
The official launch for a cleaner India
The guiding motive of the launch was a 'cleaner' India by 2019 when the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji would be celebrated. PM Narendra Modi personally wielded a broom to trigger the initiative from Rajpath, New Delhi and kick-started a walkathon. Thousands of school-goers, college students and government officials joined him in the endeavour. Government officials in Delhi spent the national-holiday cleaning their offices.
'Cleaner India'- an expensive enterprise
The total expected cost for 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' was Rs.62,009 crore. The funds will be shared by the Central government, State governments and urban local Bodies.
The extensive plans for the enormous movement
Modi described the initiative as a non-political endeavor, stemming out of strong patriotism. Some of the major objectives were elimination of open defecation, solid waste management, construction of toilets, supporting cities to build waste disposal systems, eradication of manual scavenging etc. Apart from providing facilities, the project emphasized on spreading mass-scale awareness to bring about behavioural changes in the attitude of citizens regarding cleanliness.
The progress report of the initiative
Reports show that schools and colleges across the country have taken up the initiative to conduct cleanliness programs and generate awareness. A myriad of advertisements, online-videos and mobile-apps for the 'Clean India Movement' have been generated. According to a report, a total of 31.83 lakh toilets have been built between April 2014 and January 2015, which is 25.4% of the target for 2014-2015.
Cleanliness to come at a price: 0.5% cess levied
The Finance Ministry has announced that a 0.5% Swachh Bharat cess would be levied from November 15 on all services which attract a service-tax. This would increase the effective service tax rate to 14.5%; this is widely expected to increase once GST comes into effect. This cess would be used for meeting the targets of the cleanliness campaign, like building toilets across the country
World Bank approves $1.5 billion for Swachh Bharat
The World Bank approved $1.5 billion in funding for the Clean India campaign. World Bank statistics estimate that of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation globally, more than 750 million live in India. The funding will be channeled through the Swachh Bharat Mission's Support Operations Project. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) will oversee the project's implementation.