World Bank approves $1.5 billion loan to support Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

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The World Bank has approved a $1.5 billion loan programme for Modi government’s  (SBA) or Clean India Mission, a programme that aims to ensure improved access to sanitation facilities for millions of Indians.

“The programme will help accelerate results in India’s states by giving them performance-based incentives,” the World Bank said in a statement on Wednesday.

The funding will be based on surveys to be conducted annually by third parties on rural sanitation and reaching milestones. The funds will in turn be released by the Central government to the states.

“Implementation on the ground will be monitored. A national sample-survey of rural sanitation will be conducted every year by independent third-party agencies. Sanitation improvements will be measured in terms of the number of rural people who have stopped open defecation, sustaining the open defecation-free status of villages, and achieving improvements in solid and liquid waste management,” the bank said.

The bank highlighted the abysmal conditions prevailing in India, saying one in 10 deaths in the country is attributed to poor sanitation, while 44 million children under the age of five remain stunted. The economic loss to the country due to insufficient availability of santitation facilities is about 6% of the GDP, the World Bank added.

Billed as India’s largest cleanliness drive, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2 October last year, to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

The Modi government plans to invest about Rs 2 lakh crore to construct about 12 crore toilets across India. Among other things, the SBA intends to eliminate open defacation and eradicate manual scavenging.

The Modi government also roped in movie and sports celebs to spread awareness about the campaign.

The SBA has seen its flip side, with critics, especially from the Congress and other opposition parties, calling it more of a “photo op” and “symbolic” than a meaningful effort to improve sanitation. The biggest embarrassment for the Modi government was in Delhi when it was reported that garbage was littered on a clean pavement for the BJP Delhi unit chief Satish Upadhyay to clean it.

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