This post is pursuant to the discussion on population stabilization being held in Parliament currently. India is the second most populous country in the world, sustaining 16.7% of the world's population on 2.4% of the world's surface area. The population of the country has increased from 238 million in 1901 to 1,029 million in 2001. Even now, India continues to add about 26 million people per year. This is because more than 50% of the population is in the reproductive age group. India launched a family planning programme in 1952. Though the birth rate started decreasing, it was accompanied by a sharp decrease in death rate, leading to an overall increase in population. In 1976, the first National Population Policy was formulated and tabled in Parliament.  However, the statement was neither discussed nor adopted. The National Health Policy was then designed in 1983.  It stressed the need for ‘securing the small family norm, through voluntary efforts and moving towards the goal of population stabilization’.  While adopting the Health Policy, Parliament emphasized the need for a separate National Population Policy. This was followed by the National Population Policy in 2000. The immediate objective of the policy was to address the unmet needs for contraception, health care infrastructure and personnel, and to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child health care. The medium-term objective was to bring TFR (Total Fertility Rate - the average number of children a woman bears over her lifetime) to replacement levels by 2010. In the long term, it targeted a stable population by 2045, ‘at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.’ (See Total Fertility Rate India’s TFR was around 6.1 in 1961.  This meant that an average woman bore over 6 children during her lifetime.  Over the years, there has been a noticeable decrease in this figure.  The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS III, 2005-06) puts it at 2.7.  TFR is almost one child higher in rural areas (3.0) than in urban areas (2.1). TFR also varies widely across states.  The states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu have reached a TFR of 2.1 or less.  However, several other states like UP, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, where over 40% of the population lives, TFR is still high.  (See Factors that affect population growth The overarching factor that affects population growth is low socio-economic development. For example, Uttar Pradesh has a literacy rate of 56%; only 14% of the women receive complete antenatal care. Uttar Pradesh records an average of four children per couple. In contrast, in Kerala almost every person is literate and almost every woman receives antenatal care. Kerala records an average of two children per couple. Infant mortality In 1961, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), deaths of infants per 1000 live births, was 115. The current all India average is much lower at 57. However, in most developed countries this figure is less than 5. IMR is the lowest at 15 in Kerala and the highest at 73 in Uttar Pradesh. Empirical correlations suggest that high IMR leads to greater desire for children. Early marriage Nationwide almost 43% of married women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. This figure is as high as 68% in Bihar. Not only does early marriage increase the likelihood of more children, it also puts the woman's health at risk. Level of education Fertility usually declines with increase in education levels of women. Use of contraceptives According to NFHS III (2005-06), only 56% of currently married women use some method of family planning in India. A majority of them (37%) have adopted permanent methods like sterilization. Other socio-economic factors The desire for larger families particularly preference for a male child also leads to higher birth rates. It is estimated that preference for a male child and high infant mortality together account for 20% of the total births in the country. Government initiatives The National Population Policy 2000 gave a focused approach to the problem of population stabilization. Following the policy, the government also enacted the Constitution (84th Amendment) Act, 2002. This Amendment extended the freeze on the state-wise allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to 2026. It was expected that this would serve ‘as a motivational measure, in order to enable state governments to fearlessly and effectively pursue the agenda for population stabilization contained in the National Population Policy, 2000’. The National Commission on Population was formed in the year 2000. The Commission, chaired by the Prime Minister, has the mandate to review, monitor and give directions for implementation of the National Population Policy. The Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (National Population Stabilization Fund) was setup as an autonomous society of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2005. Its broad mandate is to undertake activities aimed at achieving population stabilization. Programmes like the National Rural Health Mission, Janani Suraksha Yojana, ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) etc. have also been launched by the government to tackle the healthcare needs of people. This is also expected to contribute to population stabilization. Free contraceptives are also being provided. In addition, monetary incentives are given to couples undertaking permanent family planning methods like vasectomy and tubectomy. Nutritional and educational problems are being targeted through programs like the mid-day meal scheme and the recently enacted Right to Education. ---------------- For more details on the issue, see the website of the National Population Stabilization Fund ( Sources: Registrar General, India National Population Stabilization Fund National Commission on Population National Family Health Survey III (2005-06)

On October 2, 2021, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) celebrates its seventh anniversary.  It was launched on October 2, 2014 to fulfil the vision of a cleaner India by October 2, 2019.  The objective of the Mission was to eliminate open defecation, eradicate manual scavenging, and promote scientific solid waste management.  In this blog post, we discuss the sanitation coverage leading up to the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the progress made under this scheme.

Nation-wide sanitation programmes in past

According to the Census, the rural sanitation coverage in India was only 1% in 1981.  

The first nationwide programme with a focus on sanitation was the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which was started in 1986 to provide sanitation facilities in rural areas.  Later, in 1999, CRSP was restructured and launched as the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC).  While CRSP was a supply-driven infrastructure-oriented programme based on subsidy, TSC was a demand-driven, community-led, project-based programme organised around the district as the unit.

By 2001, only 22% of the rural families had access to toilets.  It increased further to 32.7% by 2011.  In 2012, TSC was revamped as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to accelerate the sanitation coverage in rural areas through saturation approach and by enhancing incentives for Individual Household Latrines (IHHL).

In comparison to rural sanitation, fewer programmes were enacted to tackle deficiencies in urban sanitation.  In the 1980s, the Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme provided subsidies for households to build low-cost toilets.  Additionally, the National Slum Development Project and its replacement programme, the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana launched in 2001, were programmes that aimed to construct community toilets for slum populations.  In 2008, the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) was announced to manage human excreta and associated public health and environmental impacts.

On October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched with two components: Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), to focus on rural and urban sanitation, respectively.  While the rural component of the Mission is implemented under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the urban one is implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.  In 2015, the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan under NITI Aayog had observed that the key difference between SBM and previous programmes was in the efforts to attract more partners to supplement public sector investment towards sanitation.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (SBM-Gramin)

The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers (2015) had noted that more than half of India’s 25 crore households do not have access to toilets close to places where they live.  Notably, during the 2015-19 period, a major portion of expenditure under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation was towards SBM-Gramin (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin during 2014-22

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates.  Expenditure before 2019-20 were from the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. 
Sources: Union Budgets 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The expenditure towards Swachh Bharat – Gramin saw a steady increase from 2014-15 (Rs 2,841 crore) to 2017-18 (Rs 16,888 crore) and a decrease in the subsequent years.  Moreover, during 2015-18, the expenditure of the scheme exceeded the budgeted amount by more than 10%.  However, every year since 2018-19, there has been some under-utilisation of the allocated amount. 

As per the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, 43.8% of the rural households had access to toilets in 2014-15, which increased to 100% in 2019-20 (see Figure 2).  However, the 15th Finance Commission (2020) noted that the practice of open defecation is still prevalent, despite access to toilets and highlighted that there is a need to sustain the behavioural change of people for using toilets. The Standing Committee on Rural Development raised a similar concern in 2018, noting that “even a village with 100% household toilets cannot be declared open defecation-free (ODF) till all the inhabitants start using them”.  The Standing Committee also raised questions over the construction quality of toilets and observed that the government is counting non-functional toilets, leading to inflated data.

Figure 2: Toilet coverage for rural households

Sources: Dashboard of SBM (Gramin), Ministry of Jal Shakti; PRS.

The 15th Finance Commission also noted that the scheme only provides financial incentives to construct latrines to households below the poverty line (BPL) and selected households above the poverty line.  It highlighted that there are considerable exclusion errors in finding BPL households and recommended the universalisation of the scheme to achieve 100% ODF status.

In March 2020, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Phase II of SBM-Gramin which will focus on ODF Plus, and will be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore.  ODF Plus includes sustaining the ODF status, and solid and liquid waste management.  Specifically, it will ensure that effective solid and liquid waste management is instituted in every Gram Panchayat of the country.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-Urban)

SBM-Urban aims at making urban India free from open defecation and achieving 100% scientific management of municipal solid waste in 4,000+ towns in the country.  One of its targets was the construction of 66 lakh individual household toilets (IHHLs) by October 2, 2019.  However, this target was then lowered to 59 lakh IHHLS by 2019.  This target was achieved by 2020 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Toilet construction under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (as of December 30, 2020)


Original Target

Revised Target  
(revised in 2019)

Actual Constructed

Individual Household Latrines




Community and Public Toilets




Sources: Swachh Bharat Mission Urban - Dashboard; PRS.

Figure 3: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban during 2014-22 (in Rs crore)

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates. 
Sources: Union Budget 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The Standing Committee on Urban Development noted in early 2020 that toilets built under the scheme in areas including East Delhi are of very poor quality, and do not have adequate maintenance.  Further, only 1,276 of the 4,320 cities declared to be open defecation free have toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene.  Additionally, it also highlighted in September 2020 that uneven release of funds for solid waste management across states/UTs needs to be corrected to ensure fair implementation of the programme. 

The Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021) also expressed concern about the slow pace in achieving targets for source segregation and waste processing.  The completion of their targets stood at 78% and 68% respectively of the goal set under SBM-Urban during 2020-21.  In addition, other targets related to the door-to-door collection of waste also remained unfulfilled (see Table 2).

Table 2: Waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (progress as of December 30, 2020)



as of March 2020

as of December 2020

Door to Door Waste Collection (Wards)


81,535 (96%)

83,435 (97%)

Source Segregation (Wards)


64,730 (75%)

67,367 (78%)

Waste Processing (in %)




Sources: Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021); PRS.

In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced in her budget speech that the Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be launched.  Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will focus on: (i) sludge management, (ii) waste-water treatment, (iii) source segregation of garbage, (iv) reduction in single-use plastics and (v) control of air pollution caused by construction, demolition, and bio-remediation of dumpsites.  On October 1, 2021, the Prime Minister launched SBM-Urban 2.0 with the mission to make all our cities ‘Garbage Free’.