Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Guiding principles of Swachh Bharat Mission

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) has achieved beyond expectation in a very short span of time from its announcement. The significant progress of the mission is owed to the effective implementation of the scheme.
By IASToppers
January 11, 2020


  • Introduction
  • Implementation is a huge issue
  • The ABCDEF of implementation
  • Conclusion

Guiding principles of Swachh Bharat Mission

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  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) or Clean India Mission was a nation-wide campaign in India launched on 2 October 2014 by PM Narendra Modi to honor Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a clean country.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

  • The major objective of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is to spread the awareness and importance of cleanliness and to attain the status of Open Defecation Free (ODF) India.
  • It aimed to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, towns, urban and rural areas.
  • In the past five years, rural India has seen a massive transformation in access to basic services like electricity, cooking fuel, toilets, houses and bank accounts.
  • The pace of these transformations is unprecedented and above expectation.

Implementation is a huge issue:

  • Governments have always focused on designing the right policies and development schemes. However, many such well-designed schemes failed to make a significant impact due to the lack of access to basic services to a large proportion of our population.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 1

  • While the focus on design and policy architecture was well intended, there was not a strong focus on ensuring that these policies had effective implementation on the ground.
  • Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s had famously said that of every rupee spent by the government, only 15 paise reached the intended beneficiaries.
  • This statement exposed the loopholes in the implementation of government policies and emphasized the need of a “policy” in favour of “implementation”.

The ABCDEF of implementation of SBM:

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2

1. A — Align:

  • The first step is to understand that different people at different positions may have competing priorities.
  • So there lies a need to set and achieve converging goals across the administrative ecosystem.
  • After the PM announced the SBM, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation had to ensure that the same message percolated down to the chief ministers, 700 district collectors and 2,50,000 sarpanches.
  • This was achieved through a continuous engagement with the states. Team SBM-Grameen visited each state multiple times and also engaged directly with district collectors through learning workshops, informal gatherings and WhatsApp groups, ensuring that sanitation remained on top of everyone’s agenda.
  • The three layers of the PM-CM-DM model working in cohesion is the first and most important step towards policy translating into real delivery.

2. B — Believe:

  • The second step is to believe that the goal is achievable and work towards it relentlessly.
  • Often when faced with a seemingly unsurmountable goal, the teams who believe that the goal cannot be achieved find themselves not motivated enough, and hence not trying hard enough and not achieving results — a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • The next important step was building a team of people who believed that the goal is achievable.
  • Younger people with fresh perspective and lesser administrative baggage believe more easily and focus on finding creative solutions.
  • The SBM brought in a unique blend of young professionals and experienced but driven bureaucrats, at the Centre and in the states, and each person quickly became a believer.

3. C — Communicate:

  • The main objective of SBM is to change the behavior of the people.
  • The third step is communication at all levels, above and below the line, mass and inter-personal which was fundamental to the SBM and to any other schemes.
  • An army of trained grassroots volunteers called Swachagrahis were created, who went from door to door to communicate the message of swachhata.
  • Then the SBM attempted to make sanitation glamorous by engaging extensively with the media, leveraging popular culture, and associating Bollywood stars, sportspersons and other influencers to promote the message of sanitation.
  • Lastly, the Mission kept the buzz alive throughout its life-cycle through regular, large-scale events with the PM at important milestones, helping sanitation stay on top of public recall.
  • A recent study estimated that each rural Indian was reached by SBM messaging about 3,000 times over the past five years which reflects the effectiveness of SBM’s communication.

4. D — Democratise:

  • The fourth step is to democratise the program i.e. percolate it to every section of society.
  • As the prime minister has said on many occasions, the SBM became a Jan Andolan.
  • It nudged people to realise that sanitation is not an individual good, but a community good, as its full benefits accrue only when it is universal.
  • Over the years, everyone became a stakeholder and sanitation became everyone’s business.
  • People constructed their own toilets and motivated others, communities planned activities and monitored progress, villages declared themselves open defecation free (ODF).
  • Even corporates, NGOs, civil society organizations and other government ministries and departments played a role in mainstreaming sanitation.

5. E — Evaluate:

  • The SBM was operating at a massive scale in a largely decentralised manner.
  • As progress started surpassing expectations, many people questioned the veracity of official administrative progress figures.
  • Hence, it became even more important to encourage third-party monitoring of progress and evaluate outputs, outcomes and impacts to reinforce the credibility and keep the implementers motivated.
  • Organisations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and WHO conducted various assessments of sanitation coverage and usage, successes and areas of improvement, as well as the health, economic and social impacts of the SBM.
  • India became the global laboratory for sanitation. Lessons from these studies were incorporated into the program in real-time.

6. F — Follow-through:

  • The PM said on October 2 while commemorating the ODF declaration by all states that this is but a milestone and not the finish line.
  • There is a strong focus on not declaring “mission accomplished”, and continuing to work towards sustaining the ODF behaviour and ensuring that no one is left behind.
  • The government recently released a forward-looking 10-year sanitation strategy, articulating the goal of moving from ODF to ODF Plus.
  • Hence, the last step is post-delivery follow through which is a critical to ensure that the change becomes the norm and that things don’t reset to what they used to be in the past. Only then will the delivery be truly complete.


  • The lessons learnt from SBM can be applied to other public/private schemes and policies also to ensure effective implementation.
  • The present government has laid a relentless emphasis on taking all schemes to fruition on the ground, with the final delivery being the only metric of success.
  • The journey has thrown up six important guiding principles which can be applied to any large transformation scheme — the ABCEDF of implementation.
Mains 2020 Editorial Notes

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