Panchkula wins over stiff opposition

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There were 12 villages from a total of 128 gram panchayats in the Panchkula District of Haryana that were firm in their refusal to build and use toilets.  No form of motivation seemed to impress upon them the need to adopt safe sanitation practices, until the district administration hit upon a novel idea.

Earlier, the district administration had carried out various triggering and awareness building activities in the district of Panchkula that is home to about 2 lakh people.  Nonetheless, while all the other villages conceded as they were convinced that using toilets would lead to well being of the communities; the 12 villages stood their ground.

With a view to creating psychological pressure on them, the administration said they would publish the names of the 12 villages in the media, stating that open defecation prevailed there. The result was far more effective than envisaged. Village elders met and after several rounds of animated discussion concluded that such a move would be disastrous for their village.

How could they possibly risk their villages being labeled as those with insanitary conditions?  What about the future of their children – will they ever get good matrimonial proposals, considering that open defecation was rampant there? Would their residents look upon their villages with a sense of pride and not be ashamed ofthem?  In the light of such concerns, they called upon their youth and convinced them of the need to build toilets at the earliest.

The very next day when Nodal Officers and Nigrani Committees visited the village, toilets construction was underway.

In just four months Panchkula’s villages were made open defecation free (ODF). The success of the campaign can be attributed to all sections of the community including political executives, administration, government departments, the three tiers of Panchayati Raj, school students, Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers and the public.  “Every section of the society came together, in a determined manner to construct toilets and ensured its usage through early morning field visits,” said Mittal, highly impressed with the zeal and motivation they displayed.

As far as the strategies employed, various workshops and residential trainings were organized between January and March 2016to train motivators, nodal officers and the Gram Sarpanches.  “This was the trigger for the change that followed,” she explained.

Thereafter, nodal officers including heads of different departments were assigned one Gram Panchayat (GP) each and held responsible for its progress. In this regard, they visited the villages every morning and uploaded photographs and information on their Whatsapp Group named Paavan Panchkula.

“By around 6AM in the morning, the WhatsApp group would have updates from most of the villages with photographs,” Mittal recalled. The mission became such a priority in the district that even when major preparations for other important events such as International Yoga Day were undertaken; officers that were directly linked to SBM were not involved so they could continue with their work.Further, SBM workers visited sites regularly to check on delays or dealt with scarcity of materials, organizing masons for construction of toilets even on holidays.

Although payment for toilets was withheld initially, it is now being released given that the district has been declared ODF. A total of Rs. 11.25 lakhMPLAD grant was used to build toilets in Anganwadi centers that did not have them.

Today, the villages and roads in rural Panchkula are cleaner with a drastic reduction in flies that are normally attracted to filth.

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