Over the past few months, Nigrani (monitoring) Committees in Sirsa District commenced their vigil at 4 AM. Equipped with torches and whistles they patrolled down village paths and common defecation areas. If they came across any individual defecating in the open, they would advice them and convince them to use toilets. Their efforts have borne fruit as the district was declared open defecation free (ODF) on September-17.
“Almost 5000 people were part of our Nigrani committees. Such committees were constituted in every village and they played a dynamic role in making the District ODF,” confirmed Deputy Commissioner (DC), Sharandeep Kaur Brar. They felt honoured to be a part of the campaign and did not mind waking up at 4 AM, she added.
One of the oldest places in North India owing to its mention in the Mahabharata, Sirsa had its share of challenges in implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin campaign. To change the mindset of people about defecating in the open, a habit that was ingrained in their culture was the toughest, according to the DC. The region also sees a migratory population – economically backward labourers who arrive from other States during paddy and cotton harvesting season. “We had to construct sanitation facilities to cater to them too,” the DC said.
To begin with, the District Administration chalked out strategies to execute the aims and objectives of SBM campaign. After threadbare discussions and deliberations in the meetings and colloquia, duties were assigned to District level officers to complete the job.
Sirsa administration followed a participatory approach involving gram panchayat leaders, anganwadi workers, school teachers, youth clubs, self help groups and religious priests. Several awareness building, triggering exercises and training programmes were organized. During those sessions, sanitation videos were screened and brochures distributed.
Once triggering was done, people went ahead and took ownership of the campaign and considered it a worthy challenge to build community toilets.“Our focus was on toilet usage and behaviour change rather than construction,” the DC pointed out.
To cater to various sections of the society individual household toilets and community toilets were constructed even as several solid and liquid waste management projects were put in place. Further, several masons were trained to construct two-pit toilets and they constructed toilets for NREGA labourers as well as brick kiln labourers.
For every gram panchayat and block that became ODF, celebrations were held to include Gaurav Yatras during which Sarpanches of Panchayats were awarded. That proved to be a big incentive, inspiring others to do the same.
The contributions of several dedicated individuals need appreciation – such as Head Master of Government Middle School in Chakjalu Block of Dabwali, Palwinder Sharma. In his village which had a population of 837 and 170 households, 23 of them had no toilets. “As a part of the Nigrani Committee, he motivated members of those families and supported them in building toilets,” the DC said. Village Chakjalu was awarded under the Swaran Jayanti Sanitation Award Scheme.
The task remains of sustaining the ODF status. Towards this, regular monitoring is being done.