In the forthcoming national budget, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, want budgetary support for the government’s sanitation and drinking water programmes to be doubled to around Rs. 20,000 crore. This additional allocation under the sanitation campaign would be used for building toilets as almost half the population defecates in the open.
Image courtesy: 3S Shramik
ennovent spoke with 3S Shramik, a social enterprise which is a harbinger and pioneer in the field of portable sanitation and liquid waste management. The company manufactures, services/cleans portable and other public restrooms for un-served settlements, slums and similar such applications in India. Rajeev Kher, Managing Director of 3S Shramik shared his views on the upcoming budgetary allocation, government programs and how this would affect their business:
Q. What are your thoughts about Indian government’s 4 time’s increase in the sanitation budget?
It is a very positive move. Being rated the 2nd worst place for sanitation in the world, such a step was the need of the hour. While we have become one of the largest economies in the world, and are on the way to become a superpower, it is a good sign that the Govt has not neglected the most basic problem related to health and hygiene.
Q. How would this impact your business?
Although our involvement directly with the Govt has not been a lot, we have executed a few projects with the Govt., and a pilot project at a slum in association with an NGO. The increase in budgeting surely indicates bigger partnerships with the Govt., in days to come. Sanitation for the urban unserved- being the focus for us will attract some attention from the Govt., as slums contribute to 24% of the urban population.
This also means that making legislations and standards and enforcing them for sanitation at unserved settlements could be the next step. Overall, the impact is going to be very positive.
Q. What are your thoughts about the Nirmal Gram program?
As a program, ‘Nirmal Gram’ was meaty in terms of the idea. ‘Open defecation free’ villages by providing toilets in all houses, schools, anganwadis and communities; and incentivizing Panchayat Raj Institutions for maintenance of toilets, waste management, toilets for differently abled, production of sanitary napkins and construction of incinerators, promotion of vermin-compost and eco-san; who doesn’t need all that. It is a scalable idea to establish total sanitation in every village and to provide dignity to every individual.
Q. In your view, what can the Govt do to implement the Nirmal Gram program better?
Such an excellent idea obviously requires aggressive execution to achieve the desired results. A public private partnership can help us achieve a lot more. In order to scale to every village, the Govt. could look at partnering with social businesses. Social ventures working in niche areas could be picked up and assigned the jobs they specialize in. The quality of execution will also be bettered this way and deadlines for execution would be shorter as there is distribution of work.
Q. What are your plans for the future in the sanitation business?
Over the next few years we intend to have strong tie-ups with Govts, Municipal Corporations and NGOs to make sanitation accessible to every individual in urban and semi-urban India. We are also experimenting with a few ideas to come up with the ideal inclusive growth, micro-enterprise model for an individual to run a portable toilet service business either in slums or in crowded market places. Working towards getting legislations made & enforced; setting benchmarks; international standards; continuously improving quality of sanitation and establishing sanitation as a viable business is very much on our agenda.
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