Come evening, strains of music can be heard even as brightly lit lanterns hanging from tree branches beckon people to the village centre. After a hard day’s work, the event promises the much needed entertainment to help them relax and therefore cannot be missed.
As the community congregates, actors from the street troupe get ready for their act, against the backdrop of an attractively decorated van that is adorned with messages related to good sanitation practices. Their van with one side removed doubles up as a stage.
“The person I am to marry may live in a palace; but if he does not own a toilet, I will not accept,” the street artiste croons in the local dialect, drawing smiles from the people gathered around.
Ramachandran, CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Koppal District admits that the street artists are quite effective in passing on the message. “They are able to connect with the people at a deeper level,” he said.
Each day, the situation enacted by the musical ensemble through a combination of song and dance differs. Skillfully written, the poetic script combines humour depicted through funny but real life situations but also sends out a serious message. Needless to say, the messages keep to the theme pointing out that open defecation contaminates the environment and water. They convey the need for toilets, the health benefits of using toilets, and how they can empower women and protect their dignity.
During the play, even as some characters dramatically react to coming across open defecation on their paths, others take on various roles of project development officer, a Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) consultant or a beneficiary. During the course of the play, people from the audience raise questions that get answered. In fact, all information pertaining to the SBM is aptly conveyed on the mike: What people should do to get toilets, the incentives available, contact details for raw materials, masons, procedure to follow, etc. The ultimate aim is to convince people to adopt good sanitary practices, according to Ms. Nagarathan Bhat, state IEC Consultant (SBM-G).
A baseline survey conducted in rural Karnataka in 2012 helped identify villages that had 25% or less coverage of individual household latrines (IHHL). So when the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) campaign began, those villages were first targeted by the State administration.
Bhat said that the publicity department formed several teams who performed their act in as many as 1000 villages in the first year and subsequently in about 800 gram panchayats. They actively seek the communities’ cooperation in making their villages ODF, also touching upon solid and liquid waste management and other eco-friendly initiatives.
In addition, the SBM (G) team motivates people to engage in Shramadana where the entire community participates in cleaning up the village periodically, and some help those in need, through construction work. “We are doing everything we can to make it a mass movement,” Bhat added.