Top Unicef official praises Swacch Bharat programme as 'game-changer'

New Delhi (IANS) The ‘Swachh Bharat Mission of the Modi government is an "example-setting programme for the world" and a "game-changer" as it altered the way Indian society behaved towards cleanliness, a top official of the UNICEF said.

In an interview to IANS, UNICEF India's Sanitation (WASH) chief Nicolas Osbert showered praise on the programme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his maiden Independence Day address in 2014 from the ramparts of Red Fort.

The Swacch Bharat (Clean India) campaign was launched by the Modi government on Gandhi's birth anniversary on October 2, 2014. The components of the government's flagship scheme include the construction of household toilets, community and public toilets and solid waste management.

"It caught us all by surprise, us, the international crowd, the development crowd. Look at India, a very powerful country, going for space conquest, having such powerful industries, such strong research on the robotics and on IT and as much as India was dreaming of all of these, I think, in August 2014, saying that we are going to clean this mess, so we have a strong base for our development, was a good move," Osbter said.

"Five years ago, I was told that talking about open defection was a taboo here, even with the administration and the people but after Swachh bharat, even the Chief Ministers, District Magistrates propagate open defecation free India," he added.

He highlighted the positive global impact that success of Swachh Bharat Mission brought with itself.

"A lot of countries from the world now come to India to learn about the Swachh Bharat Mission. Just a year ago, 55 ministers from across the globe visited India to measure the impact of Swachh Bharat and they went back to their countries very much inspired," Osbert said.

According to Osbert, the primary goal behind the Swachh Bharat Mission has been met but the project needs to continue and with bigger goals this time so that the aim to get a clean India is achieved.

"The positive impact of the movement is clear on the field and is certainly measurable," he said.

"Five years of time, considering the size and diversity of the nation, the success of Swachh Bharat Mission is a world record. This is certainly a world record," Osbert emphasised.

"But I must say the battle is won, as we complete five years of Swachh Bharat Mission. With that being said, I would add that India needs to continue the mission ahead and also work on other important aspects, like hand washing with soap, maintaining the toilets," Osbert said.

Highlighting the prime reason for the mission's success, Osbert compared Swachh Bharat Mission with various sanitation-promoting initiatives that were run previously in India.

"Swachh Bharat is not the first initiative that India has taken to improve sanitation in India, but the biggest reason makes it stand apart from others was the focus on society's behaviour," he said.

"Other initiatives had to offer from techniques to infrastructure but the Swachh Bharat stood apart from them as it included an element of behaviour change. The government made sure that techniques and infrastructure were used by every man, which was possible by involving everyone in the process," Osbter said.

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