Divyang Swachhagraha – an appeal to keep district clean


A unique appeal to keep the district clean and healthy was made by differently abled individuals of Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh on 18th March, 2018.  The one-of-a-kind event involving more than 3,303 divyangs who made a formation along the outline of Gandhiji’s spectacles made it to the Limca Book of World Records.

“Simply called, Divyang Swachhagraha, the activity was inspired by the Prime Minister of India’s “freedom from dirt” concept, while taking on the passion of the independence struggle so that everyone who organized and participated in the event could relate to it,” said Aayushi Bhardwaj, Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak (ZSBP), Moradabad; pointing out that Divyang means Specially Abled and Swacchagraha means Appeal for Swachhata (cleanliness).

The objective of the activity was to include the specially-abled in Swacch Bharat Mission and seek their help to motivate the rest of the district to stay clean and healthy, she added.

It was while working on the field that the Chief Development officer (CDO), Moradabad, C. Indumathy observed that just providing toilets to specially-abled beneficiaries did not serve the purpose, as many people were not able to use them.  Since then, with the guidance of the previous Commissioner of Moradabad, L. Venkateshwarloo, she sought CSR (corporate social responsibility) support of various organisations and banks to help the specially-abled of rural Moradabad.

In no time the District Magistrate, Rakesh Kumar Singh, also followed up on this initiative and successfully mobilized and distributed ‘potty chairs’ to some identified beneficiaries in the beginning. That’s how the story of inclusion of the specially-abled in Swacch Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) of Moradabad began.


Taking a leaf out of the books of CSR departments of a few companies, that extended support to the SBM-G, various other banks and organisations similarly showed interest in helping the specially-abled.  Owing to this help, the district administration was able to add a component of ‘Potty Chair Distribution’ to severely challenged people (who were identified at block level) in the event as well.  Apart from this, every identified specially-abled from rural Moradabad was motivated to be a part of this mission.

The district panchayati raj office played a major role in terms of financing and monitoring of the Divyang Swachhagraha event.  From identification of specially-abled, to making the platform where they had to sit within the frame of Gandhi Ji’s spectacles, everything was done by the government machinery provided to District Panchayati Raj Officer.

The district magistrate ensured effective convergence of different departments for monitoring.  While officers of various departments were responsible for transporting the specially-abled individuals from various blocks to the event venue, the administration made all provisions for transportation upto the gram panchayat. This was made possible because of active participation of all district officers.  Thereafter, with the support of Gram Pradhans, the divyangs were taken to the venue.

The ZSBP played a major role with support from the ZSBP of the neighbouring district Amroha, Sunil Kumar Singh.  From collecting names of the differently-abled in each of the blocks, to deciding on the theme for the world record – a human chain; making of the structure of Swacch Bharat Mission Logo on the ground across an area of 100 X 120 mtrs, to motivating the contractual staff of Swacch Bharat Mission to support the campaign;  assigning duties to the DPRO machinery to mobilising a taskforce of students from a nearby college – Vivekananda Hospital and College of Nursing, a lot of planning had gone into the organizing of the event. Around 150 students volunteered for the campaign and each of them was allocated tasks.

As many as 3303 Divyangs gathered at one place for the event and the amazing spectacle of Divyang Swacchagraha was completed within 3 hours and recorded at 8:00 AM on 18th March 2018.

As far as the outcome is concerned, the event brought together people from differently walks of life including differently-abled to work for a common cause, and is bound to accelerate the SBM-G campaign.  It is also expected to pass on the message to the PM who has always shown concern, keen to make life better for the specially-abled, particularly in the smallest unit of the society which is a village.  Not only will this promote the mission further, people will be more sensitive to the issue of inclusion and making toilets divyang-friendly.  At the end of the event, many new faces registered their support to the SBM-G campaign.

(Inputs: Aayushi Bhardwaj, ZSBP-Moradabad)


Effective recycling of plastic waste in Imphal

Plastic recy

Recycling has practically become a household term with school children across the country being educated about the need to recycle, conserve and preserve.  The same can be said for Sagolband Sadokpam Leikai in Imphal district (west) of Manipur, where an effective recycling programme is being spearheaded by Sadokpam Gunakanta (65 years).

Knowing that plastics are a threat to the eco-system as they negatively impact the natural environment and create problems for plants, wildlife and even human population, Gunakanta who is an electrical engineer from the Government Polytechnic, Manipur has been determined to make his district a better place to live.

Earlier, for over 30 years he had served an Assistant Engineer in the Electricity Department.  Thereafter, he founded the S. J. Plastic Industries in early 1990s, and since then he has been the driving force behind the effective recycling process of plastic waste in his area.

A father of three children, Gunakanta runs the small enterprise, with the help of his son who helps him in the daily operations at the recycling plant.

The small set up has certainly come a long way.  They have been recycling plastic waste collected from the city for 20 years. Initially, the waste collected was sent to Guwahati and Delhi for recycling.  However, in 2010, new machines were procured that could build pipes and other household items from plastic waste.

Plastic rec

Currently, as many as 120 types of plastics have been identified in Manipur alone.  While the recyclable ones are recycled, the non-recyclable ones are still sent to Delhi and Guwahati after a compression process, the set-up operating like clock-work. With only 30 persons required to man the entire plant at any given time, there is almost zero attrition as all employees manage their leaves in cohesion!

Every day about 20,000 kilograms of waste is collected.  Multiple small enterprises are utilized to segregate waste from across the city; and paid 8 rupees for each kilogram. Out of the 120 types of plastic collected, almost 30 are recycled in Manipur. The set-up employs many migrant and local workers throughout the plastic collection process.

Considering that use of plastic has increased by leaps and bounds across the country, Gunakanta is a staunch proponent of Recycling of Waste.  “Plastics are recyclable! We need to make conscious efforts to recycle such waste so they can be used for other purposes, instead of allowing them to pollute our water bodies,” he said.

(Inputs: ZSBP-Imphal)

Kanta Devi shoulders responsibility of home and village with ease

Kanta DeviKanti Devi, wife of Mahanand Pandit is the Jal Sahiya of Malda village in Malda Panchayat located in Gawan Block, one of the most interior areas of Giridih District. The district is home to the highest mountain peak in Jharkhand – a conical granite peak located at 4,477 feet above sea level, also known as the Parasnath Hills.

When she started her work in May 2017, just a few households had their own toilets.  Significantly, none of the community members had any idea about the importance of having a toilet in their house.  But she took this as a challenge and was determined to change the situation of her village.

The Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin campaign was well underway in her area at that time.  The woman leader was among the first to be convinced about safe sanitation practices and the need to build and use toilets – for the health and well being of the entire community.

As a first step, Kanti Devi decided to convince her own family members to construct toilets and use them regularly.

During the initial phase, Gram Sabhas were conducted and community members were informed about the benefits of toilets and how several diseases could be kept at bay just by using a toilet and maintaining basic cleanliness.

However, convincing the community members to leave their age-old practice was not so easy.  Several Ratri Choupals, mothers’ meetings in anganwadi centres and community meetings were conducted to bring about a change in the mindset of community members.

Kanta Devi encountered many challenges in the course of her work.  Owing to her involvement in the activities of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin, she had to devote a lot of time outside the house and her family members were not happy with this.   But gradually, she was successful in overcoming this problem by convincing her family members how important her work was and how her community needed her support.

Shortage of trained Raj Mistris or masons posed other challenges as most of the local ones were not ready to work in construction of toilets. To overcome this challenge, she herself contacted Raj Mistris from several other Blocks and even arranged for food and lodging for them so they could speed up construction activity.

Her hard work showed results when she was able to get 366 individual household latrines (IHHLs) constructed and her village was declared open defecation free (ODF) on 10th August, 2017.  Moreover she also ensured that all those toilets were regularly used.

It was a huge moment for her when she was felicitated by District Collector of Giridih for her extraordinary contribution towards fulfilment of the objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission campaign.

Recalling those precious moments, Kanta Devi said, “Previously my husband was not supportive of my work in SBM as I had to spend a lot of time outside my house. But when my village was declared ODF and I was felicitated by DC Sir my husband and family members were proud of me.  SBM has helped me attain respect and a voice in the family which we women in the rural areas have always longed for.”

(Inputs: Akash Ganguly – ZSBP-Giridih)

Mahbubnagar set to become ODF by Oct 2018

Ronald Rose

When developing new programmes and strategies, it is important to identify processes that will not work.  This is exactly what the District Collector of Mahbubnagar, Mr. Ronald Rose has done.  Having articulated problems with certain initiatives of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign, his team is pursuing innovative measures, while moving away from those that are not aligned with their strategies.

The district in Telangana which has held successful toilet construction campaigns such as 350 toilets in 36 hours when an entire village was made open defecation free (ODF) within the one and a half-day period will be made ODF by October, 2018.

What did not work?

To begin with, the district was besieged by issues related to drought, superstition and seasonal migration.  As if that was not bad enough, when it came to implementing the sanitation programme, the rocky terrain, soil that could not absorb liquids and improper drainage and treatment system added to the challenges.

After months of triggering exercises and awareness building activities, toilet construction activities were first attempted through an NGO while the coordination was carried out by the village Sarpanch.  This clearly did not work.

Thereafter, the officials decided to have a combined soak pit or recharge pit into which both bath and kitchen water flowed.  This was initiated with support from MNREGA funds of Rs. 4200 per unit.    They figured that with this process, there would be no stagnation, no mosquitoes and no overflowing sewage onto the streets; while ground water would be recharged.

However, because the soil was extremely hard in some villages, there was no seepage.  When they used 10 rings to deepen the pits, then fecal matter did not decompose fast enough.

The officials then attempted bio-toilets that have a chamber into which inoculums were introduced.  However this system found no acceptance among members of the community.  Further, since it was expensive, it did not work.

Strategies that worked

The 6X4 model of toilet cum bath at the same price of Rs.12,000 per unit, in keeping with the state policy was advocated for all households in the district.  To facilitate this, the District Administration tied up the entire supply chain management.  All required items such as cement, bricks, doors, hinges and other accessories as well as masons came as one package and this was given to individual homes at special rates, given that they were bought in bulk.

In addition, Rs. 900 was collected from beneficiaries for maintenance and this sum was kept with the women self help groups.  Further, families were asked to dig their pits themselves.  This promoted ownership and at the same time ensured usage.  As far as construction of toilets was concerned, it was carried out by the Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) and the money went to them for construction.

5 committees in every village

As many as 5 committees were constituted in every village, which included women and local Sarpanchs:

  • The survey committee carried out a door to door survey to identify beneficiaries and they filled out a prescribed proforma given by the district administration
  • The purchase committee took care of bulk purchasing after due negotiation
  • The distribution committee issued construction material for every unit and maintained accounts
  • The construction committee supervised preparation of construction material and actual construction
  • The Nigrani committee carried out checks and ensured that all people with toilets used them regularly.

VWSC comprising of the Sarpanch, village leaders and the panchayat secretary were entrusted with signing cheques and supervision of the methodology used.


To tackle the issue of waste water, the district administration involved all hotels and schools to channel their waste water for treatment before it could be used for gardening.  In addition a sludge treatment plant was set up.  Constructed using a wetland technology, it ensured that sludge was taken care of.  Also, using Aquatron technology that separates solid and liquid waste resulted in treated liquids that can be used for gardening while solids were turned into manure.

Involvement of students and government functionaries

  • The district administration involved NSS and NCC students in the sanitation drive where they were sent to villages in uniform. Residing in each village for 5 days they would go house to house to motivate people to use their toilets regularly.
  • Government functionaries were allocated 10-15 houses each to visit every day and convince people about safe sanitation practices.
  • DC Internship programme was initiated whereby MSW (Masters of Social
    Work) students were recruited for a period of 3-6 months and each allocated 2-3 villages to make open defecation free.

Barwadih’s ODF journey, as told by Swachhagrahi Devrani Devi

devrani_barwadiNot too long ago, open defecation was rampant in Barwadih panchayat of Latehar district in Jharkhand.  At the break of dawn each day, people would head to the river side to perform their ablutions.  The situation was much worse for women who woke up earlier than others and went further ahead so they would have some amount of privacy while protecting their dignity.  On account of open defection, disease was common in most households, particularly children who were weakened by frequent diarrhea episodes and more vulnerable to malnutrition and infections.

The Barwadih panchayat comprised of 3 villages – Ardash Nagar that was situated on the banks of Barwadih River; Garhvatanr village located on the banks of a smaller river and a hill colony set amidst the hills of Barwadih.

When the district administration launched the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign in this panchayat, they realized that it was going to be tough to change the mindset of the people who were accustomed to defecating in the open.  It was a traditional practice passed down from our ancestors and hence we found no fault with it.  Moreover, when the subject of toilets was introduced, people thought it was inauspicious to have a toilet inside their homes.

Thereafter, many triggering and awareness exercises were carried out in the GP.  Officials formed teams who visited homes and talked about safe sanitation practices – pointing out the health benefits, convenience and security a toilet would provide, while protecting their dignity.

Several months down the line, when people were convinced about the need to use toilets, toilet construction began.

On my part, I did what I could to support the SBM-G campaign.  I worked with officials, visited homes, participated in village meetings and triggering exercises.  I felt very motivated when I thought about the progress that could be made in the village if it became ODF.  This gave me courage to work even harder.

I encouraged members of our women’s group to reflect on the ongoing activities of village.  We decided to help change behaviors of our families and advocate the need to build and use toilets.

Even after toilets were built, I saw that many people continued to answer nature’s call outdoors.  It was discouraging.  Nonetheless, with the help of videos, magazines, TV programmes and stories, I emphasized that the community will not be healthy just by building toilets, but by using them.

With the most resistant families, I told them about the government incentives, the national wide campaign and the efforts to free the country of the practice of open defecation.  My persistence paid off in the end.

Today, Barwadih is ODF and I’m delighted that my daughter in law need not go outdoors to answer nature’s call.  Best of all, during rain or shine, our panchayat will remain clean and disease will be contained.  I believe that a healthy person will remain happy and the village can make progress in every sphere.

To ensure ODF sustainability, we are encouraging people to clean their toilets regularly and providing information about how to maintain them.  Our ongoing activities include regular awareness on dangers of open defecation.

(Inputs: ZSBP-Latehar)

Swachhta didis make an impact in Dhanbad


Often referred to as a district, owing to its size, the Baghmara block in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand has an all-women team which is stepping up their action plan to make their district open defecation free (ODF).

The all women team comprises of the newly appointed Block Development Officer (BDO) – Rinku Kumari, Block Pramukh – Meenakshi Rani Gudia, Block coordinators – Sahela Parveen and Sonakshi Kumari, and other social mobilisers.

Lately, the block comprising of 61 panchayats of which 37 have female Mukhiyas or Sarpanchs, has captured a lot of media attention – both print and digital for various initiatives and activities carried out by the women.

Baghmara with a population of approximately 3.5 lakhs is the toughest to manage, according to district officials.  While a few panchayats are located close to the city, a large number of them are situated in the interior parts spread across large areas and having a low population density.

However, the courageous women have made great strides in the sanitation movement, the following quotes bearing testimony to that:

“An all women team in this high priority programme of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) gives me the ease of interaction and a better understanding,” said Rinku Kumari, BDO Baghmara.

“During the resurvey of the block, we assisted ma’am and would often visit her even at odd hours, mainly due to delays from field.  Under those circumstances, having a lady officer in the Block gave us not only a sense of pride but we could also seek her advice with freedom and comfort, said Deepa Kumari, Social mobilizer Baghmara.

Talking about the sense of recognition she feels while visiting people, “People call us Swachhta Didis wherever we go,” said Block Coordinator, Sahela Parveen.

Significantly, soon after the appointment of the new BDO, eight self help groups (SHGs) were granted funds to construct toilets, under the supervision of the Ladies Extension Officer of Baghmara.  While this is commendable, the simplest yet positive change that is evident in the Block office is the well maintained sanitary toilet that is a boon for women employees in particular.

“If women are given a comfortable space to work, they will work efficiently,” admits Rinku Devi.

In addition, the team has garnered a lot of social media attention, witnessing the highest number of retweets and tweets by District Officials (DDC Dhanbad) and their activities are being covered in all the local dailies.

(Inputs – ZSBP-Dhanbad)

Anima Asur leads from the front

HAnimaosabu village in Netarhat gram panchayat (GP) of Latehar district in Jharkhand is situated amidst jungles on the foothills of the mountains.  It is the highest point in Jharkhand and home to about 40-50 families from a primitive tribal group called Asaram.  In this village where open defecation was rampant, as many as 35 individual household toilets were constructed recently and the village is well on its way to becoming open defecation free (ODF).

Several months ago, motivators from the block administration visited and surveyed the remote village, situated at Dhodi Kona Tola of Hussambu which is about 45 kilometers from the headquarters of the Mahudhnar Block in Latehar. They realized that in an area where there is acute water scarcity, constructing toilets and bringing about behavior change was easier said than done.

During the initial village meetings, it was Anima Asur from an impoverished family that invited the officials to her home.  That the breadwinner of the family was convinced and motivated to contribute to the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign, was evident as she agreed to take on a leadership role in taking forward the mission.

At the heart of the matter was the health and well being of the whole community, be it children, women, men or the elderly.  Once Anima Asur understood this, she immersed herself in the work of SBM-G.

Further, equipped with information about the mission and the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) that aims to empower women, provide livelihoods and promote self help groups while solving social problems and bring about progress, she formed a women’s group comprising 12-15 members and held meetings with them regularly.

During their discussions, the women talked at length about ways to improve their village.  To ensure that all families had access to toilet facilities, they realized they had to build as many as 50 toilets.  The team also went from home to home repeatedly, convincing people about adopting safe sanitation practices, pointing out to them the dignity and security toilets would provide.

Thereafter, with the support of the district administration, Anima organized water for construction of about 35 toilets and for other uses.  Once this was done, people gradually began to get used to the idea of toilets and understood how convenient they were.

As plans are in the pipeline to conclude toilets for the remaining families, the woman leader who continues to work for the development of her village in a sustained manner has earned respect from all people in her village who refer to her as the Swachhta Didi who is leading from the front to make her village ODF.

(Inputs from ZSBP-Latehar)