Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh recently expressed his agony about the failure of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) by saying it is “neither total, nor sanitation nor a campaign”. However, it is surely an important scheme as outlet budget expenditure for 2011-12 for this scheme is Rs 1,650 crore. Total project outlay so far is estimated at Rs 19,626 crore. For the last few years public spending on this scheme is steadily increasing, but, without yielding an improved performance. The dream was to achieve 100% sanitation coverage in 2012, but the target is revised to 2017. The performance is reflected in a report which says that an estimated 600 million have no access to sanitation in South Asia. This approximation can be acknowledged because the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation says that 27% of rural households in India do not have sanitation facilities.
According to 2001 census data, 22% did not have sanitation facilities. A meagre increase of 5% in a decade!

Before analysing the spending on the scheme it would be worthwhile if a basic introduction of Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) is given. It is one of the oldest and most important social schemes of our Government. It was launched in the year 1999 taking queue from the Central Rural Sanitation Campaign, launched in 1986, which was a major failure. The main objective of the campaign was to ensure sanitation coverage for all by 2012. It is almost 12 years of the scheme (25 years if you take Central Rural Sanitation Programme as the base year) and now it is extended for another 5 years. So one can easily imagine how much has been spent to chase a dream of 12 years.

The basic idea is to involve the Gram Panchayats, Self Help Groups and NGOs and also to motivate the rural households for constructing Rural Sanitary Mart, Community Sanitary Complexes, Individual Household Latrines and most importantly, to cater to school sanitation. The expenditure is shared mostly on a 70:20:10 ratio among the centre, state and the beneficiary.

Let us take a look at the budgeted figures for Total Sanitation Campaign over the last few years.

Budget Allocation For Sanitation Campaign

Clearly the budget has been steadily rising over the years, barring 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. Such regular funding without targets being met can be one reason there is a blame game of sorts going on. Mr Ramesh blames it on NGO leaders for poor awareness and non-performing states. However, J.S.Mathur, Joint Secretary, Sanitation department is reported saying that availability of water is the major impediment for this slow growth.

The centre has tried to prevent leakage of funds by taking steps like saying the last instalment of funds would only be released after 80% of expenditure is reported and utilisation and accounts certificates are issued.

But one weak link could be the Information, Education, Communication (IEC) efforts for the TSC. These three factors are perhaps the most important and key to its success. Though the Government has earmarked a maximum of 15% for this, the IEC and Mass Media campaign can only be taken up at the National and State level. The District level focus is mainly concentrated on wall paintings, folk media and so on.

To motivate the panchayats, the Ministry has also been awarding the ‘Nirmal Gram Puraskar’ (Clean Village Award) since 2003. Rewards are based on the population ranging from Rs 45,000 to Rs 5 lakhs. There was a dramatic increase from 45 Nirmal Grams in 2005 to 5,000 in 2007. Currently, more than 30,000 Panchayats have applied for the award.

Meanwhile, the Department of Drinking Water Supply had plans to formulate a strategy plan for up scaling the TSC and making India a 'Nirmal’ Bharat. Working groups were formed; meetings were held with state governments, NGOs, panchayats and various other stakeholders. We are waiting to access this report as it was supposed to be ready by February, 2011. Meanwhile, we are waiting to see what we can achieve by 2017.