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PM’s Swatchta Campaign: What India can learn from Singapore and Japan

Author: Nachiket Nishant

Last year, the Indian Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi launched a clean India drive on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday – 2 October. The main objective of this campaign is to ensure sanitation facilities for all. This movement will focus on solving sanitation problem and waste management in India by creating awareness and ensuring hygiene as top priority. It aims to provide sanitation facility for every household in rural areas by 2019.

Other objectives as prescribed in this campaign are:

  • Construct individual, community, and cluster toilets.
  • Reduce open defecation in villages as it has been remained one of the main reasons for death of thousands of children every year.
  • Create public awareness about living a hygienic life through use of sanitation facility.
  • Keep villages and urban areas clean.
  • Solid and liquid waste management.
  • Clean water supply in every rural household by 2019.
  • Separate toilets for boys and girls in every school by 15 Aug, 2015.

Unique Approach

Modi has linked this campaign to economic prosperity of the nation. According to him, a clean India movement will provide employment opportunity and it can also reduce health cost, that’s why he considers it as an economic activity. A clean India will also attract more foreign tourists which will result in increase in Indian GDP. He has emphasized on the cleanliness of major tourist destinations to change the perception at the international level.

To make this campaign a success, the prime minister has chosen various renowned personalities across the industries such as media, entertainment, and sports. Some famous personalities include Anil Ambani, Kamal Hassan, Priyanka Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar and Baba Ramdev. The popular “Dabbewale” is also nominated for this campaign.

This healthy mission will cost INR 2 Lakhs Crore to Indian government. That’s why, Modi has pledged to all the big corporations and private enterprises to switch their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds to this project. The fund bearing will be in the ratio of 75:25 among central and state governments. For special category sates and especially North-eastern states, the central government will contribute 90% of the cost. Till January 2015, 31.83 lakh individual toilets had been built and Karnataka was the top performer by achieving 61% of the target.

The PM has pledged every individual to contribute to make this movement a reality. This is not only a government responsibility but also a greater part of this campaign depends upon the effective participation of citizens. However, no doubt it is a great mission and objectives are also aligned with this dreamy project, but the question remains hanging: what is the possibility of its not becoming a failure? Previously, the Nirmal Bharat campaign back in 1999 was started with the same mission, but it failed to reach its objective.  Everyone knows that cleanliness and better hygiene is necessary for better living, but where India lacks is willpower of the government and commitment of its citizens. In order to make this drive successful, the government and citizens (we) have to become equal partners. It will be also good to look at other countries who have made similar kind of missions successful. There are few Asian countries like Japan and Singapore who have made clean and hygiene campaign an example for other countries.


Indian PM was very impressed by the spirit of cleanliness in Japan, and he also quoted during his Teacher’s day speech. In Japan, cleanliness is a public work and every citizen contributes towards cleanliness of the city by making it their responsibility.

There are plenty to learn from Japan to make this Indian mission successful:

  • Students and teachers together clean and mop up toilets. It has been a part of character building programs in Japanese schools.
  • Since Meji era (1868-1912), hygiene has been linked to nationalism, so citizens take it as a moral responsibility.
  • It is a law in Japan for dog owners to make sure that their dogs not urinate or defect in public places, and if it happens then they have to clean the shit and urine by themselves. On the other hand, in India still a large population in urban areas don’t hesitate to urinate in public places, making a law for dogs’ owners looks a distant dream.
  • Japanese companies also participate and innovate new technologies for consumers, keeping the hygiene and cleanliness as a feature of their products. For example, Toyota introduced three car models with anti-bacterial steering wheels, and Hitachi launched ATMs that sterilizes and iron yen notes before dispensing them to withdrawer. Indian companies should also learn from the Japanese companies to bring products which have better hygienic value.


Singapore is a tiny island but regarded as one of the best places to live in this world. The government has emphasized on the cleanliness and hygiene drive since 1960s.

What can India learn from Singapore?

  • In 1967, the Singapore government launched “Singapore Clean Campaign” which was followed by Public Health Law. The objective of this duo government campaign and law was to change the public health behaviours. Indian government should also think about bringing some national law which can provide a better ‘clean India’ incentive to the government.
  • The government relies on three formulas to keep the city clean: reduce, reuse and recycle.
  • Singapore is also called a ‘Garden City’ due to government’s emphasis on perfect urban planning and pollution control.
  • The government from time to time bring laws to conservation of environment and natural resources.
  • Affordable housing for poor citizens has also helped this country in providing access to household sanitation.
  • Various initiatives such as ‘Clean and Green Singapore Schools Campaign’, ‘Bring Your Own Bag at Supermarkets’ and ‘ABC Water Programs’ have also helped this country to achieve its objective.

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