Notes from West Bengal

From Dr. Nipun Vinayak

Electronic transfer of funds: the State is rolling out a system of electronic transfer of funds, with a single account at the State level. This will solve issue of unparked funds in some districts. Issue has been raised by other States, including Assam and UP. This may be encouraged.

Involvement of CM and DMs: After Nadia declared ODF, the CM has prioritised sanitation in the development agenda and directly reviews DM on its progress. A DM is able to take many courageous decisions (allowing construction of toilets even on encroached lands, Nadia), roping in all stakeholders etc. DM s are also able to find innovative solutions for issues such as non Baseline survey toilets ( through MGNREGA etc), providing access of toilet to Anganwadis ( by shifting private Anganwadis to buildings that have a toilet, linking school toilets to anganwadis etc.) A DM can also have ‘big vision’ for time bound outcome. District leadership is sine qua non for Swachh Bharat.

Sanitary Mart model: the basic model of West Bengal (? Drawing from Midnapore) is the supply driven sanitary mart model. Through strengthening of this supply chain, districts have been able to achieve saturation fast. In districts with high literacy, impression is that convenience ensures high usage of these toilets as well. The presence of high incentive however, lures a person to have more toilets, with say family splitting, and also a person to want a pucca toilet, even if he has a safe sanitary but kutcha toilet of earlier scheme. If incidentally this leads to some community getting a pucca toilet earlier, this may lead to different connotations. At some point of time, the village/ GP will have to say ‘no’ to new additions and decide that it is now their responsibility to not allow any open defecation and provide toilets themselves to any new families etc. The State is also now allowing an individual household to construct their own toilet; however it is yet to be practiced on scale.

The GP size being very big in West Bengal, and institutional structure being very strong in GPs (own engineer, secretary, asst secretary etc), and roping in of all village functionaries (including ASHA, Anganwadi workers) – districts are achieving saturation fast. Solves the sanitation issue faster; may miss on the intangible gains of a community thinking of themselves as a community and unleashing a positive energy amongst them, and making them more prepared/ responsive for various other development works, and feeling a collective pride. The behaviour change is however increasingly being stressed. Few people (NGOs) from all districts have been given basic training in community approaches, and it has percolated in varying extent to the grass roots, more so where DMs are personally championing the same. Understand in Malda and Cooch Bihar, the model is a more purist community model. Learnt that in Malda, Nirmal Utsav is celebrated once the village becomes ODF and the district administration carries plethora of schemes/ camps there. This positive incentivisation – after- the village becomes ODF – and not luring them before, may help the programme. DM Birbhum for example sanctioned a submersible pump for water to the temple committee who had donated their land for row toilets of poor families. The extreme purist approach even detests this linkage, maintaining that motive to become ODF has to be of the people, by the people, for the people.

Clearly, there are multiple approaches and as West Bengal and India inches closer to Swachhta, learning along the way from each other may be very useful. Sometimes even within the same State, districts may be unaware of models in other districts, and it may be helpful if State facilitates cross sharing between districts (and even to other States) on a regular basis (workshop, Video Conference, sharing on website, most importantly cross visits).

Individual incentive: at least in the richer districts, asked how many people are such, who cannot construct toilets of their own funds, one response was,” Aisa to Ek Bhi nahin hoga ! ” In Assam, and Rajasthan, loosely asked, response to this question was ‘At least 90% can’. The SBM-G allows States to decide how they want to disburse household incentive – individually, or collectively to community after village becomes ODF. And they can take a decision that takes them fastest to sustainable ODF! (A National workshop in Chhattisgarh is being scheduled to share their experiences in this regard with other States). A strong ODF verification mechanism of the State can help State choose the best strategy.

Involvement of religious leaders: is one of the many efforts of Nadia in involving stakeholders. The Imam of Nadia, when called upon by the DM Salim to join this work, felt this” hum to saalon se wait Kar rahe the is kaam ka; pakizgi ki hifaazat to Hamara hi kaam tha, aur district administration hamesha hamare saath tha, raat ko das bane bhi hamein saath chalne ko kaha gaya . . ” Wow! Nadia also brought in wonderful convergence. NRLM was used to increase the number and skills of SHGs to develop them as marts. The fringe difficult areas were addressed – brick kilns, dhabas. Salim brilliantly involved political class in his work by triggering them, comparing situation of Bangladesh with them, and developing a common vision of ‘why can’t we?’ Nadia, Indore makes one rethink, do we really need five years to become ODF – why not a year, why not two years? All DMs charged together, can do it in two years? Will it be a good policy in terms of reaching saturation fast, working like mad, a revolution? Or is 5 years also a slowly sustainably emerging model?

Vulnerable: are the SCs, STs, and minorities more difficult to ‘convince’? Or does this vary with approach? Whatever the approach (especially in non community approach) , how do we ensure that the gaps reduce, at least not increase! Rohit Gupta, DM Udaipur and UNICEF, Rajasthan are scheduling a workshop on ‘sanitation in tribal areas’ where the issue should be discussed in greater details.

Clearly, there is a need to understand, promote and replicate electronic transfer of funds to address issue of unparked funds. Decision on baseline to reflect true picture is also required. Issue of defunct/ outside baseline toilets through MGNREGA may be an easy route and utilised. Nadia, Indore may also make one rethink, do we really need five years to become ODF – why not a year, why not two years? All DMs charged together, can do it in two years? Will it be a good policy in terms of reaching saturation fast, working like mad, a revolution? Or is 5 years also a slowly sustainably emerging model?

*The writer is Dr. Nipun Vinayak, Director, Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India

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