In an effort to provide access to sanitation facilities for all people in Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, District Collector, Vikash Narwal has provided three options – support towards building of individual toilets, construction of public toilets within 200 metres of their homes and setting up portable toilets in traditional open defecation areas which are often near water bodies.
“This gives them no excuse for defecating in the open,” said Narwal who is keen to make one rural block and one urban block, open defecation free by January 26, 2017.
However, when he along with the municipal commissioner and a team visited common defecation areas at about 6.30 am recently, they found more than 5 people relieving themselves near a water body. Barely 100 yards away was a well constructed and operational toilet.
“I saw no justification for them doing so. So I got my team to confiscate their utensils and warned them that if they defecated in the open again, they would be fined,” he said. Their excuses attributed to old habits and convenience of doing so near a water body made no sense to him.
According to him, Sagar is a tough district where caste discrimination and traditional practices such as open defecation are common. Nothing much had been done with regard to sanitation earlier. To set this right, the DC had put in place measures so that the SBM movement gathered momentum during the last six months.
Having thus far increased pace of toilet construction in the area, organising rallies and motivators to conduct awareness building exercises and involving people wherever possible, the DC feels it is high time to take coercive measures such as imposing fines. “I believe that at certain times, positive approach alone will not work. People need to know that if they do not use the facilities provided to them, they would have to face the consequences,” he said.
During an independent survey carried out recently, the DC found that even after toilets had been built, 25% of people continued to relieve themselves outdoors. It is with this segment of the society that the administration needs to be strict.
The recent move by the DC seemed to have made an impact. Majority of the people have responded positively and have committed to the SBM cause while other officers have been put on the job to continue strict measures. “Majority of the people are neutral – they just need a push in the right direction and will easily accept what we suggest, considering we have given them various options,” he said.
Sagar is home to a beautiful 200 acre lake and several people are dependent on the lake for all their needs. However owing to defecating on its banks and pollution during the last 30 years or so, it has been spoilt. The DC said that they are implementing a drive to clean up the surroundings of the lake in the next 20 days.
Further, plans are in the pipeline to make 2 rural blocks and 4 urban blocks ODF by March 2017 and the entire district ODF by October 2, 2017.