Given that games and sports help in building a sense of cooperation, competitiveness and team spirit, the district administration of Nagaur in Rajasthan had organised ODF (open defecation free) Olympics from January 18th to 25th to promote the objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Campaign amongst the community.
“While the event was intended to create a loud and competitive atmosphere, we also wanted to make sports a catalytic agent to compel non-ODF gram panchayats (GPs) to make efforts to become ODF,” said District Collector of Nagaur, Rajan Vishal.
Located in the heart of Rajasthan, Nagaur that borders seven other districts is home to a population of 3307743. It comprises of 14 blocks and 467 GPs and the toilet coverage is 75%. Of these, as many as 177 GPs were already ODF including Moulasar Block with all its 27 GPs.
Considering that the pre-requisite for participating in the ODF Olympics was for the GP to be ODF and the last date for entries was January 15th, there was hectic activity among certain GPs to make the cut. “About 10 GPs were declared ODF in record time to be able to participate in the ODF Olympics. Our district officials worked overtime to verify and enable more GPs to participate,” he added. As for non-ODF GPs, they missed participating in the event and are now renewing their efforts to make their respective GPs ODF.
Details of the programme were chalked out in December 2016, clearly outlining the modalities, prizes to be won and the elimination rounds. Other than volley ball, which is common in the region, there was also a marathon race which was named as Swachchhthon. In addition, the district had prepared a large volume of IEC material that was distributed during the event.
The district has enlisted the support of sports and physical training teachers for preparation of games at the village level. In addition, a panchayat level committee was formed for selection of teams and an ODF Olympics calendar was issued well in advance so that GPs had adequate time to prepare for the event.
As far as prizes are concerned, the winning team got Rs. 51,000, the team that came in second got Rs. 41,000 and the second runner-up was awarded Rs. 31,000. All 177 ODF panchayats participated in the Marathon Race, the prize money being: I-Rs 11000, II-Rs.7100 and III-Rs.5100. This race along with finals match of volleyball was held on January 26th.
The climax of the event was during the Republic Day function, organized at the District stadium. The venue had a special pavilion for Swachhta Senani – a separate seating arrangement for Sarpanchs of ODF GPs. Despite heavy rain, 175 Sarpanchs including 26 women Sarpanchs of ODF GPs participated as Swachhta Senani and marched as part of Gaurav Platoon in the Republic Day Parade at District celebrations at Nagaur. Sporting traditional Rajasthani attire and holding a placard stating the name of their ODF GP, the Sarpanchs proudly led their teams during the parade. The parade was undoubtedly a source of encouragement and recognition.
On the occasion, Mukhya Mantri Swach Gram Yojana was also started with fanfare in fourteen GPs- one in every block.
ODF Olympics aside, a regular feature in the Nagaur Collectorate is ‘Coffee with Collector’ that sees representatives of GPs regularly meet with the Collector to share their experiences. During these meetings, Swachhta Champions are presented with coffee mugs that bear the Niralo Nagaur logo, which they treasure.
In addition, the district administration engages with the community at various events. Nagaur happens to be the birthplace of Tejaji, the legendary Rajasthani folk hero who is worshipped as a deity in rural Rajasthan. Teja’s legend is that of a young man, striving for respect and recognition, who is willing to sacrifice everything in order to uphold and maintain the honour of women and cows.
The folk deity has a large following from the States of MP, UP and Haryana other than Rajasthan. In his honour a large fair is held each year in his birth place, the village of Kharnal that sees the participation of over 5 lakh people. This event too is used as a platform to spread on the SBM message, according to the DC. He said that ever since the SBM campaign began, open defecation has become less common in the rural areas. The district has a target of becoming ODF by August 15, 2017; and the target for ODF GPs is now to become ODF+