Given that each state has the flexibility to decide on the activities of the Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin campaign, taking into account their State specific requirements, Harda which was declared open defecation free (ODF) in August 2016 resorted to positive discrimination to bring about behaviour change.
In the run-up to the recently concluded Olympics, the district administration of Harda in Madhya Pradesh organized ODF Olympics amongst the Nigrani (monitoring) committees of the various gram panchayats. The event was so called because only ODF villages were eligible to participate in the various events regardless of whether they had good players or not, according to CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Harda, Priya Mishra.
“Nigrani committees comprising of men, women and children are the real champions in our efforts to stop the practice of open defecation. They watch over the villages to check people from relieving themselves outdoors,” Mishra said. But when a village, especially one that has skillful players is denied participation at the event, its people are motivated to work hard to bring about behaviour change, she added.
Another innovative competition was the ‘Swachh Kitchen, Sundar Kitchen (clean kitchen, beautiful kitchen),’ where only school kitchens of ODF villages can participate. Further, any person from an ODF village need not get a coupon to enter the offices of the district administration.
“Such positive discrimination allows people to take pride in their achievement – which in this case is making their village ODF. It is also serves to provide incentive to villages to maintain their ODF status,” Mishra said.
Since the onset of the SBM-G campaign, Harda which was an early starter began an operation called Malyudd, meaning war against insanitation. In fact several terms which are commonly used in the SBM people’s movement across the country were sourced in Harda, one such term being ‘LotaJallao’ where people organize an ODF celebration. One of the activities during the event is burning of the pots that people carried water in earlier when they went out to defecate.
In addition, every ODF village organises a ‘walk of pride’ or Garv Yatra across former OD areas to celebrate their new status; in contrast to the earlier ‘walk of shame’ to areas of open defecation.
Hardahas also involved its people in the ‘Waste to Wealth’ programme, an experiment to make soft toys stuffed with sanitized shredded non-biodegradable waste like plastic bags, wrappers, and other items from used bangles, plastic straws, x-ray sheets, etc.,by which many self-help groups were trained and introduced to new avenues of livelihood.
Harda’s campaign was truly a people’s movement in every sense of the word. More than 4000 people,including religious leaders, caste and community association leaders and representatives from health, revenue, cooperative, dairy and ICDS, judiciary, police and forest officials were oriented to trigger large sub-groups.While doctors prescribe good sanitary practices, schools counseled parents about the need for toilets; and lawyers gave a concession to clients from ODF villages; even as all festivals gave considerable focus to cleanliness issues.
So, its hats off to the communities and every section of the society, even though the challenge to sustain their ODF status remains.