Lakuwa block in Sivasagar district of Assam has been declared completely free from open daefecation. Sri Virendra Mittal, Collector Sivasagar, says that he realised the importance of 4Ms – motivation, money, masons and monitoring – to achieve the ODF status. Towards this, the fund release procedure was streamlined, people’s representatives were involved and Public Sector Undertakings working in the district were also roped in.
There were two main challenges encountered in achieving the ODF status (1) Provision of toilets to the persons left out in the baseline survey and upgrading the defunct toilets and (2) Changing the mindset to ensure use of sanitary toilets.
The first challenge was met by pooling of money from various sources like MGNREGA, Zila Parishad, PSUs, banks, and philanthropists etc. Philanthropists’ contribution played a crucial role in making Lakuwa Development Block ODF.
The second challenge was addressed by the Collector, Sivasagar leading from the front and organising weekly meetings which became famous as “Saturday Meeting” in Lakuwa with the PRIs, NGOs/SHGs, Junior Engineers, resource persons etc. along with the local public and PHED (Public Health Engineering Department) officials to discuss the importance of attaining the ODF status and reviewing the performance.
Assam has got a glorious past of Ahom rule which helped in motivating the people by invoking the glorious history of the majestic Ahom Kings. Further, Tea Garden labourers were reminded of their contribution to socio-economic-cultural development of Assam and urged to look into their personal development by way of adopting the use of sanitary toilets. Constant touch with PRIs (Panchayat Raj Institutions), PHE (Public Health in Emergencies) officials further boosted the morale of the team and every single member of the team committed himself/herself to the goal of making Lakuwa Block ODF.
A strong leadership with direct communication channels with the executing team; community participation; funds from non-government sources to supplement resources; streamlining of the procedure and last but not the least, effective coordination helped Lakuwa to achieve ODF status within 11 months despite the hurdles created by incessant rains and water logging for a period of three months.