Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: India’s Monumental Success in Achieving Cleanliness


Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, commonly known as the Swachh Bharat Mission, is a historic campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014. This visionary mission aimed to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a ‘Clean India’ by the time of his 150th birth anniversary on October 2, 2019. In this comprehensive blog, we will delve into the remarkable journey of how India scripted a success story in cleanliness through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Impact: Transforming Sanitation in India:

Sanitation, often taken for granted, is a fundamental human need that significantly impacts public health, dignity, and overall quality of life. India’s ancient civilization has historical evidence of advanced sanitation practices, including scientific toilet construction and waste management systems. However, as centuries passed, the importance of cleanliness gradually faded from the country’s social system.

Before the initiation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014, India faced a daunting sanitation challenge. The sanitation coverage was shockingly low at 39%, leaving a vast portion of the population vulnerable to poor sanitation practices. Approximately 550 million people in rural areas lacked proper toilet facilities. This crisis disproportionately affected women and children.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan- India's Remarkable Cleanliness Success

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Success: India’s Toilet Revolution:

To truly appreciate the impact of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, it’s crucial to examine the evolution of rural household toilet coverage in India. The statistics paint a vivid picture of the journey from deficiency to accomplishment.

In 1981, rural household toilet coverage was a mere 1%, highlighting the stark inadequacy of sanitation facilities in rural areas. This number gradually increased over the years, reaching 11% in 1991 and 22% in 2001. However, it was only in 2011, when it reached 32.7%, that a significant improvement was seen. The turning point came with the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Between 2013 and 2014, the campaign’s inception year, there was a substantial leap, with 38.4% of India’s rural households finally having access to toilets. According to the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, this figure skyrocketed to a commendable 100% by 2019-20.

The mission didn’t stop there. In March 2020, Phase II of SBM-Gramin was introduced with an ambitious agenda. This phase focused on achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus status, going beyond just toilet construction. ODF Plus encompassed effective solid and liquid waste management, ensuring that every Gram Panchayat (local self-government) had robust waste management systems in place.

Success Stories That Inspire:

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is replete with inspiring success stories that exemplify the transformative power of grassroots efforts and community involvement. Let’s delve into a few remarkable instances that demonstrate how this mission captured the spirit of the nation.

In Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district, approximately 1.38 lakh school children from 1700 schools took it upon themselves to advocate for toilet construction in their homes. Their heartfelt letters to their parents ignited a fervor for change, compelling the administration of Kabirdham to expedite its journey towards becoming an ODF district.

Similarly, in April 2022, it was reported that Karnataka’s Gadag district had undertaken the construction of distinctive pink toilets in 32 gram panchayats across the district. These initiatives showcase the innovative approaches taken to address sanitation challenges at the local level.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G), special attention was given to the construction of washrooms for adolescent girls and women. These washrooms not only featured adequate water supply and lighting but also included private changing rooms. These facilities were notably equipped with incinerators. They ensured the safe and eco-friendly disposal of sanitary pads and menstrual waste, addressing a crucial aspect of menstrual hygiene.

International Recognition:

India’s commitment to sanitation and the Swachh Bharat Mission has garnered international acclaim and recognition. Let’s explore some of the notable endorsements and acknowledgments from global organizations.

In 2021, UNICEF reported a substantial reduction in the number of people in India without access to toilets. The figure plummeted from a staggering 550 million to a significantly improved 50 million. This substantial progress underscored the mission’s positive impact on the lives of millions, particularly in rural areas.

Two years earlier, in 2019, the World Bank made a significant announcement, stating that 96% of Indians had access to toilets. This remarkable achievement marked a crucial milestone in India’s sanitation journey, with a vast majority of the population now having access to basic sanitation facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recognized the Swachh Bharat Mission’s contribution to public health. According to WHO, the launch of the mission helped avert a staggering 180,000 diarrheal deaths in rural India. This remarkable reduction in mortality rates was attributed to improved sanitation practices and the elimination of open defecation.

The Impact of the Mission:

The Swachh Bharat Mission has left an indelible mark on India’s landscape, reshaping sanitation practices, and significantly improving the overall quality of life. Let’s delve into the tangible impact of this mission on various fronts.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), over 10.28 crore toilets were constructed across 36 states and Union Territories. This massive infrastructure development project was a testament to the government’s commitment to enhancing sanitation facilities for its citizens.

In just five years, the mission achieved a monumental feat by declaring 603,175 villages Open Defecation Free (ODF). This showcased its effectiveness in bringing about behavioral change at the grassroots level. These villages, once plagued by open defecation, had now embraced the importance of sanitation and hygiene.

The Swachh Bharat Mission was not limited to infrastructure development; it encompassed a comprehensive approach to behavioral change. More than 30 crore people actively participated in behavior change campaigns, making it the world’s largest behavior change program. This massive outreach and engagement were pivotal in instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership for sanitation practices among the masses.

Approximately 5.4 crore school children played a vital role in the ‘Swachh Sankalp Se Swachh Siddhi’ initiative. This program aimed to instill a sense of pride and commitment to cleanliness among the youth, ensuring they ingrained the values of sanitation and hygiene from an early age.

Authorities established a permanent AudioVisual Experiential center known as Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra to spread awareness about sanitation and share the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) journey. Swachhata Kendra (RSK), inaugurated on August 8, 2020, stands as a testament to the mission’s impact and its role in shaping India’s future.

Who are Swachhagrahis?

Swachhagrahis are the unsung heroes of the Swachh Bharat Mission. These dedicated volunteers selflessly committed themselves to the cause of cleanliness and sanitation, embodying Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and principles. Swachhagrahis played a pivotal role in mobilizing communities, raising awareness, and driving behavioral change at the grassroots level. Their tireless efforts were instrumental in the mission’s success.

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Challenges and Triumphs of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

Achieving the goals of the Swachh Bharat Mission was not without its challenges. Overcoming deep-rooted habits, especially the practice of open defecation, proved to be a monumental task. To ensure the mission’s success, an innovative and creative behavior change model was meticulously designed and implemented on an unprecedented scale.

One of the critical challenges faced was the need for rapid implementation across diverse regions and communities. The mission demanded speed and scale to reach its ambitious targets, which necessitated extensive coordination and resource allocation.

Addressing the stigma associated with sanitation and open defecation was another formidable challenge. The Swachh Bharat Mission was not just about infrastructure development but also about transforming mindsets and societal norms. This required a multi-faceted approach, including awareness campaigns and community engagement, to combat the deeply ingrained taboos associated with sanitation.

Sustainability was a key concern as well. Meticulous planning and a long-term commitment were necessary to ensure that the progress made under the Swachh Bharat Mission did not become short-lived but continued to benefit future generations.

Urban Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2.0: Next Phase

The Swachh Bharat Mission has achieved significant milestones, but the journey continues. The government is steadfast in its commitment to taking the mission to the next level. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a notable announcement in her February 2021 Budget speech regarding this matter.

She revealed the imminent launch of Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0. This strategic initiative aims to address critical urban sanitation challenges. This phase focuses on wastewater treatment, effective sludge management, and garbage segregation at source. Additionally, it aims to reduce the usage of single-use plastics and control air pollution resulting from the accumulation of garbage in urban areas.

On October 1, 2021, Prime Minister Modi formally launched SBM-Urban 2.0. This sets the mission’s trajectory to make all Indian cities ‘Garbage Free.’ The government’s determination to elevate cleanliness and sanitation in urban areas is evident in this ambitious vision.

Top-Performing States in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Movement:

Various states and Union Territories’ commitment and dedication largely attribute to the success of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top-performing regions in terms of achieving ODF Plus status.

  • Telangana: Telangana achieved an impressive 100% ODF Plus status, reflecting the state’s unwavering commitment to sanitation and waste management.

  • Karnataka: Karnataka closely followed with a remarkable 99.5% ODF Plus status, highlighting its significant progress in improving sanitation facilities.

  • Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu, with a commendable 97.8% ODF Plus status, showcased the state’s dedication to achieving comprehensive sanitation goals.

  • Uttar Pradesh: Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s most populous states, achieved a commendable 95.2% ODF Plus status, underscoring the mission’s success in densely populated regions.

Among smaller states, Goa stood out with a remarkable 95.3% ODF Plus status, demonstrating that sanitation excellence is achievable across diverse geographical areas. Similarly, Sikkim, with a 69.2% ODF Plus status, proved that even smaller regions could make significant strides in sanitation.

Union Territories also made substantial contributions to the mission’s success. Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra Nagar Haveli, and Daman Diu achieved villages that were 100% ODF Plus Model. These achievements serve as examples of how even geographically distinct regions can embrace sanitation excellence.

As of now, India boasts 1,65,048 villages with solid waste management systems and 2,39,063 villages with liquid waste management systems. A significant reduction in stagnant water and litter has been observed. There are 4,57,060 villages with minimal stagnant water and 4,67,384 villages with minimal litter. Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase II has ensured that 50% of villages in India are now ODF Plus, further solidifying the mission’s impact.

Managing Grey Water and Waste:

An essential aspect of the Swachh Bharat Mission was managing greywater. This refers to wastewater from daily household chores like cooking, cleaning, and bathing. In many villages that lacked proper drainage systems, managing greywater was a pressing challenge.

To address this issue, the government launched the Sujlam campaign, encouraging people to construct soak pits or leach pits at the household and community levels. These pits aimed to effectively manage greywater, preventing waterlogging and contamination.

The impact of the Sujlam campaign was significant, with nearly 22 lakh soak pits constructed across various regions. This initiative not only improved sanitation but also had positive environmental implications by conserving water resources and preventing pollution.

Building on the success of the Sujlam campaign, the government introduced Sujalam 3.0, further emphasizing the importance of efficient greywater management.

Another noteworthy initiative under the Swachh Bharat Mission was GOBARdhan, which stands for Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources-dhan. This initiative focused on the recovery of biodegradable waste and the conversion of that waste into valuable resources. GOBARdhan aimed to create clean and green villages by harnessing the potential of organic waste.

GOBARdhan utilized biodegradable waste, including kitchen waste and cattle dung, to produce biogas and organic manure. This not only reduced waste pollution but also provided clean energy solutions and enriched agricultural practices. GOBARdhan contributed to creating sustainable and eco-friendly villages, aligning with the mission’s overarching goals.


The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a testament to India’s unwavering commitment to cleanliness, sanitation, and public health. From a nation grappling with low sanitation coverage, India achieved remarkable milestones in a relatively short span. The Swachh Bharat Mission’s journey is a remarkable success story.

The impact of the mission on health, hygiene, and the environment is profound. Open defecation has significantly decreased. Access to sanitation facilities has improved, and hygiene awareness has increased. As a result, several villages have witnessed a reduction in deaths due to diarrheal diseases, malaria (especially in children), stillbirths, and newborn mortality rates. This has led to improvements in child health and nutrition, contributing to the overall well-being of communities.

In conclusion, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan transformed India’s sanitation landscape and gained international recognition. As it enters the next phase, India focuses on urban sanitation, wastewater management, waste segregation, and environmental sustainability. This reaffirms the nation’s commitment to cleanliness and hygiene.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a shining example of a nationwide initiative. It’s driven by the vision of a ‘Clean India,’ bringing transformative change to millions. This campaign serves as hope and inspiration for nations working to improve public health, sanitation, and overall well-being.

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