On December 27, 2016, the district administration of Jagtial in Telangana engaged in a collective action of constructing 820 individual household toilets in five gram panchayats (GPs) of four mandals in the district. With a goal of triggering the campaign into a mission mode to achieve ODF (Open defecation free) status for the district, work began at 8.20 am and, in 36 hours, was successfully completed by 8.20 pm on December 28, 2016.
According to the District Collector, Dr. A. Sharath, in keeping with the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign that is active across the country, the Telangana Government had advised district collectors on the occasion of ‘District Re-organisation Day’ to engage in innovative activities over the next 100 days to promote rural development. Under the guidance of the Telangana SBM Mission Director, Ms Neetu Prasad, a 90-days plan (15 November 2016 to 15 February 2017) was devised to make the district ODF.
“Focus was given to approximately 80,000 (39.25%) households that did not have toilets. Our objective was to complete 820 toilets in 36 hours on war footing,” Sharath said. “We are keen to make our district ODF ahead of target, on January 26th,” he added.
Formerly an extremist area, Jagtial had a predominately agriculture based economy with several interior habitations. Migration of households/people to other states and countries was common and there was a wide gap between the rich and poor. It is in this context that the district made plans to address challenges, while helping change the mindset of people so they would consider having a toilet a primary need.
In the run-up to the 36-hour campaign, the district administration conducted a survey to identify homes without toilets and held several awareness building exercises and motivation meetings so that every family understood the basic need for a toilet and took the decision to build a toilet. Thereafter, administrative sanctions were given to eligible beneficiaries.
Sanitation message was conveyed through Kalajatha (street) performances and motivational posters. Beneficiaries were encouraged to take oaths to use sanitation facilities once constructed.
On the first day of the 36 hour campaign, masons and helpers and their supervising offices were at their positions by 7 AM and a siren transmitted by a police vehicle went off at 8.20 am. This was followed by a foundation ceremony at every household marked by breaking of a coconut by the woman of the house. Thereafter there was hourly monitoring of construction activities.
Notably, work continued during the night using lights and night halt and food arrangements were made. Health officials were on duty in case of any eventuality. As many as 1250 masons and workers, 12 district level monitoring officers, 60 mandal level monitoring officials, and 360 village level functionaries were involved in the activities of the campaign. In addition, help desks were set up at the village level and it was heartening to note that beneficiaries provided snacks and refreshment to masons and workers.
Post-execution, visits were made to every household by special district officers who congratulated the household. “The campaign actually took on a festive atmosphere with full participation of beneficiaries. A positive team spirit was on display as people held camp fires,” Sharath said.
The district administration ensured that all institutions – schools, anganwadis, bus stands and community centres – had sanitation facilities. In addition, they made certain that there were no visible feces, litter or stagnation of waste water around the village; and advised gram panchayats to adopt solid waste management systems and personal hygiene practices.