In the run up to Gandhi Jayanthi on October-2 this year, one pradhan and as many as 30 sarpanchs of 30 panchayats in the Ataru block of Baran district in Rajasthan took a vow to partake of just one meal a day until their villages became open defection free (ODF). They were convinced that it was an effective way to speed up efforts of their communities in making their villages ODF.
“The Pradhan was of the view that Gandhiji fought against so many social evils and injustices. So in his honour, it seemed right to fight against open defecation in this non-violent manner,” said CEO of Zila Parishad, Baran District, Bhagwati Prasad Kalal.
Beginning on September-1, the district administration held various meetings with pradhans, sarpanchs, gram sevaks, teachers in schools and anganwadi workers, government officers and dealers of ration shops who are the closest to the people. After much deliberation, the block and panchayat heads decided on this course of action on September-14– of eating just one meal a day until all people in their villages used toilets to relieve themselves.
The efforts according to the CEO were far better than anticipated. To begin with, people were surprised, and then they began to understand the seriousness of the issue. Thereafter, construction activity began in earnest. Sarpanchs supported families with financial assistance, provided construction material. Not wanting the rain to delay the momentum, they used carts to transport bricks. Their homes were filled with all the paraphernalia needed to construct toilets.
In addition, students and teachers pitched in to support the campaign as they went door to door to convince people.
The effect of this campaign was immense. While there were 5 ODF panchayats before September-1, the remaining 30 panchayats have become ODF in just 25 days. Now the whole of the Atru block has become ODF, the CEO said.