Giving a big push to the district’s ODF (open defecation free) movement, the District Magistrate (DM) of Rohtas in Bihar, Mr Animesh Parashar has started visiting backwards villages with the worst sanitation problems in a bid to make the District ODF in June 2017.
One year ago, in June 2016, the district administration had initiated ‘Mission Prathishta Rohtas’ a campaign to make the District ODF by linking the campaign theme with women’s pride and dignity. UNICEF is providing technical support to Rohtas to achieve ODF status within set time frame.
Earlier, the DM had asked officials to identify villages that were not performing as per the anticipated outcome and come up with reasons for their sanitation problems. The exercise revealed that there were close to 250 villages from Non-ODF Panchayats, where urgent intervention was needed. With this in mind, the DM personally visited many of those villages over the last few days. The focus on his interaction with the communities was to influence behaviour change linked to the dignity of women.
Giving insights into the Mission Prathishta, Mr Parashar said that having completed 100 years of Champaran Satyagraha, the district administration decided to set up Satyagraha Kendras in all 245 Gram Panchayats on 9th January 2017 the day when Mahatma Gandhi first came to India from South Africa. These Kendra are the nerve centres for launching the cleanliness and sanitation campaign. Later, the District re-christened the campaign as ‘Mission Prathishta Rohtas – Ek Satyagraha’ and pushed the ODF movement from the perspective of resistance for Open Defecation by people from all walks of life.
Having enlisted the support of hundreds of volunteers or Satyagrahis, they selected two villages from every Panchayat, making a total of 490 where they held a massive campaign through Satyagraha Kendra on 17th and 18th April. Significantly, women were at the forefront of the campaign as they carried out door to door visits and offered flowers to people in homes without toilets. Later, volunteers, government functionaries, PRI members and the women observed fast. By the time the fast was called off in the evening, the community members had taken an oath to make their village ODF. The same event was repeated on day two in other Panchayats.
Another innovative activity of the district was the Kachara Marathon that took place on 16th May. The District designed the event in such a way so that all motivators and officials could help the communities to clean up their villages. Preparations for the event began on 4th May when the selection of unhygienic villages – one per non-ODF panchayat – was made with the consent of the Gram Sabha. After that, on 6th May the announcement of Kachara village marathon was performed to the sounds of drum beats, requesting the communities of 181 selected villages to participate in the cleaning process. “Nobody wanted their village to be classified as one where open defecation was rampant,” Mr Parashar stressed and said that the activity, in fact, motivated many communities to make their villages free of garbage so it could achieve the ODF tag.
On 16th May, the Kachara Marathon was flagged off with five flags placed at different locations. All motivators and officials of that concerned area cleaned the main road and other dirty areas of the village. In the end, the villagers took an oath to keep their panchayat clean and make it ODF within 15 days. “Considerable focus was given to dirtiest roads that were prone to garbage pile up. We covered 245 KMs of the road on that day,” the DM said. In this too, students, volunteers and satyagarhis participated with much enthusiasm. At the end of the exercise, garbage or Kachara which amounted to about one quintal or more in some the villages was presented to the community, showing them the garbage they had generated. “This acted as a trigger that mobilised the communities,” Mr Parashar said. Soon after, the district officials could see a marked improvement in the way people contributed to the cleanliness of their villages.
Having made four blocks of the total 19 blocks ODF, the district is still struggling with certain pockets of the balance 15 blocks, out of which three blocks are situated on rocky terrain. “The pit toilet is not working in some of the Panchayats located in difficult terrain and so the administration is looking for alternative technology such as ECOSAN for these areas,” UNICEF Consultant, Ashish Kumar said.
Incidentally, Rohtas is in a race against the district of Sitamarhi, also in Bihar, vying to become the first ODF district in Bihar.
May 25, 2017