In a bid to make Sitamarhi in Bihar open defecation free (ODF), the district administration has come up with an innovative step to hasten toilet construction and usage in all their villages. Incentives are provided to all beneficiaries of the village at one go rather than one household at a time, once all families have toilets that are being used.
The move has shown considerable success as thus far two gram panchayats have already been declared ODF following verification. “We gave one cheque to the bank with a list of beneficiaries and the bank makes electronic transfers (by Real Time Gross Settlement-RTGS) to individual accounts,” explained District Magistrate, Rajeev Raushan. The group cheque is of course symbolic.
The basic concept in this approach is community led total sanitation and behaviour change of the community is our prime concern, he added. Having led this initiative in a mission mode, the DM says that people are coming forward to make their village ODF.
In this regard, the SBM team has been organizing camps in every village where people are made aware of the benefits of good sanitation practices. Thereafter, a timeline is set to complete construction and verification. Needless to say, people are assured of the government incentive of Rs 12,000 per household if they build and use toilets.
“We have earned the trust of the public in the system. They are now aware that if they take the initiative to build and use sanitation facilities, they would get their incentive,” he said. Best of all, the society is working together ‘as a single unit’ as there is peer pressure when a few families have toilets and others do not. Further, those who are financially stronger are helping those who are financially weaker. They have understood that even if one family does not build toilets, their incentive will be withheld.
Fortunately, 70-80% of the people are capable with resources to build their toilets. It is for the remaining 20% that this incentive mechanism is particularly favourable to.
Sitamarhi which is said to be the birthplace of goddess Sita is home to 273 gram panchayats of which just 37 GPs are ODF. Of the 3 sub-divisions, Belsand has recently been declared ODF. The local administration has set a target of making this district which is backward in terms of literacy and other development indicators ODF by October 2, 2017.
According to the DM, community mobilization is the key to the success of the SBM programme. Going by the reactions of the community, he said they were very happy that the administration is visiting every village and offering them incentives.
Along the way, there have been several incidents, which have kept the team motivated – of individuals and elderly who have sold jewellery or animals to finance the construction of toilets.