In 2014-15, toilet coverage in the district of Ramgarh in Jharkhand was barely 15% and around 98,000 toilets had to be built to provide access to sanitation to all people. However, a multi-pronged approach to include awareness building, capacity building, supply chain management, school-led sanitation, etc., brought a turnaround in attitude in the erstwhile military district of the British regime, making it open defecation free (ODF).
Ramgarh was declared ODF on 5th April, 2017. According to Deputy Commissioner cum District Magistrate, Ms. B. Rajeswari, there were several challenges in the ODF journey of the sparsely populated Ramgarh. She talked about each of the challenges and how her team was able to address them effectively.
Considering that open defecation was an accepted traditional behaviour, the district administration began an interaction programme with the community to prioritise the need for clean water and sanitation facilities. In this regard, they conducted activities such as Ratri Choupal, Prasasan Aapke Dwar, Lota Pani, Nukkad Sabha, Ratri Vishram to build awareness. Further, community led total sanitation (CLTS) approach was used to trigger the community for the desired behavior changed and to generate the demand of IHHL (individual household toilets).
It also came to the notice of the administration that there was a lack of ownership of the programme. SBM-G was not given the due importance by its stakeholders. To address this, all district, block and line department officials, were sensitized through a series of capacity building programmes and workshops to generate ownership. This enabled them to understand the importance of the programme.
Lack of trained manpower was another issue. In this regard, a district project management unit was set up to implement the programme while UNICEF supported the district with 35 trained experts on community mobilization. Further, with a view to promoting interdepartmental convergence, officers of education, health, district social welfare and drinking water and sanitation department were brought onto one platform for implementation and continuous monitoring of district ODF plan.
Having realized that community mobilization was the key to the success of the programme, the district officials held various awareness meetings. At first it was rather difficult to convince people about the link between open defecation and disease, the DC explained. How were we to tell them, that the practice followed by their ancestors was wrong, she asked? However, gradually the community discussions became a time of socialization. Officials had to convince people that it was not an agenda of a political party for their personal gain and that the campaign was for the benefit of every individual and for the progress and well being of the entire village. When Dumli became the first ODF Block in Ramgarh and the whole of Jharkhand and was featured in the media, it served as inspiration for other GPs.
The district officials also believed that the school is a gateway to sanitation. In this regard they involved teachers and students of the village schools in the ODF campaign through SLTS (school led total sanitation) approach. It involved triggering them and sensitizing them to adopt safe sanitation practices.
Significantly, discussions in the Gram Sabhas, and a written commitment letter from the community for adopting safe sanitation practices were the entry point activity in each GP. Thereafter, use of triggering methodology on the parameters of shame, fear and disgust was adopted. Activities such as Swachhata Rath, Nukkad Natak, kala jatha, human chain, school rally, prabhat ferry, ensured involvement of school students and the entire village community.
Further, identification and training of natural leaders within community had a very positive role as these leaders were able to establish communication in local dialect targeting the desired behavior change. The natural leaders were trained on community approach to sanitation with technical support from UNICEF.
Also, a communication drive for promotion of self construction and camp in villages by senior district / DPMU/BPMU/UNICEF officials was handy in driving the community for their effective participation in the program and to build trust upon the administration.
The support of religious leaders was enlisted in sensitizing and mobilizing the community. In addition, Nigrani committees comprising of representatives from both genders; and Banar Sena for monitoring of open defecation sites ignited a sense of ownership with the community.
Setting up of a war room was a critical factor in establishing trust of the community as there was quick response to the query or complaints received from field. The DC would personally monitor the status of complains/queries every alternate day. Further, every Saturday was observed as Swachh Shaniwar when a weekly review meeting was orgainsed with all panchayat and block level nodal officers.
Key elements that led to success of the campaign:
The District Magistrate reiterated that the key elements in the processes and systems that contributed to ODF Ramgarh were: correction of baseline data and including those left out of the survey; focus on panchayat level plan; continued capacity building and orientation of Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) as well as members of panchayat raj institutions, district and block officials and other stakeholders.
Generating demand for toilets through CLTS/ CATS approach by mobilizing the community; and strengthening supply chain management systems by ensuring availability of trained masons, materials at fair price and fund flow mechanism helped a great deal in building momentum.
To address slip-back cases, and the 15 thousand defunct toilets in the district, they raised funds to the tune of Rs 56.01 crore from the District Mineral Fund Trust (DMFT) for nonstop construction of toilets. In addition, they mobilized support from affluent people and MLA for construction of toilets; while SBM-G funds were used to benefit the poor and needy families who were not financially capable for taking up IHHL construction. Towards this, an intensive drive was launched to identify wealthy people and they were recognized for their contributions.
Monitoring, transparency, accountability:
As far as monitoring was concerned, officials looked at numbers, quality, functionality and usage of IHHLs on a day to day basis. They used colour coded stickers for monitoring usage of toilets and engaged in constant follow-up. While standard procedure and a template were developed, a mechanism for availability of real time data and transparency were put in place. Monitoring was carried out by VWSC, community, panchayat nodal officers as well as district nodal officers – during pre construction and post construction of IHHLs.
Social media was extensively used and Whatsapp groups were created for each block to monitor day to day activities and document innovative practices at community level.
In the initial phases of SBM-G implementation in Dohakatu panchayat, district officers were trying to motivate the community to participate in construction activity so as to expedite the process of quality toilet construction and at the same time develop a sense of ownership and usage. However, it was reported that people were not coming forward in support of the campaign as expected. To address the issue, the DC initiated the Gaddha Khodo Abhiyan where the senior district officials alongside beneficiaries dug toilet pits together. This had the desired effect when people themselves went forward and pledged to support the sanitation drive.
Bhola Karmali (73) who was born blind lived with his 3 sons and their families in Sutri, a village located 12 kms from the block headquarters of Gola in Ramgarh district where open defecation was a collective community practice. From his childhood until recently, Karmali had taken the help of others such as his parents or grandsons when he went out for his ablutions.
Apart from the usual inconvenience of having to persuade someone to take him, the septuagenarian as other villagers, was constantly in fear of a herd of elephants that frequented their village, causing considerable damage to their crops, homes and people too, at times.
When Karmali heard about the Swachh Bharat Mission campaign, he asked his son to construct a toilet for him. However, they did not have enough land or money to construct a sustainable toilet. So he approached the village Mukhiya who put forward his request at the Gram Sabha. Thankfully, Sahida Khatoon, wife of late Ahsahan Ansari donated land for construction of a toilet for Karmali.
In the meantime, the Mukhiya met with the State officials and asked for funds to make his panchayat ODF. When this was done on a priority basis, a user friendly toilet was constructed for Karmali using the government incentive. The day the toilet was completed, Karmali’s joy knew no bounds.
A total of 380 IHHL were constructed in the Sutri and the community passed a resolution to refrain from defecating in the open. Karmali continues to act as a catalyst to sensitize villagers to regularly use their toilets.
How Budh Bazar Do Talla Panchayat became a role model for neighbouring panchayats
The Mukhiya of Budh Bazar Do Talla Panchayat – Lav Kumar Mahto was determined to make his panchayat ODF. He therefore went to great lengths to mobilize his community to contribute the construction of good quality toilets. On his part, he and the UP Pramukh contributed Rs. 500 for each of the households while the community contributed what they could through cash and kind, for building of their toilets. In the end, a total of 265 IHHL were constructed in this panchayat. To show his appreciation, the Mukhiya provided a sanitation kit to each household and the panchayat became a role model for other GPs.
Ramgarh district was felicitated for developing the first ODF block in Jharkhand at a time when there was no ODF district even in adjoining states (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh). It was an ideal opportunity for the district to showcase their commitment to the SBM cause. The team was also pumped up with positive energy when UNICEF came forward to provide all possible support for their drive. This went a long way to sustain their energy levels throughout the campaign.
Having taken charge of the district on 26th June 2016, the Deputy Commissioner said that she and her team never missed an opportunity or platform to promote sanitation. Moved by the plight of young girls and women, she held special discussions with them during Sandhya Chaupal. “Such instances made me want deliver on their expectations,” she said.