To mark World Toilet Day 2016, the district administration of Mahabubnagar district in Telangana decided to ensure access to sanitation facilities for all residents of the very backward Salonipally village. The village which is home to 386 households had just 52 toilets, a mere 7.4 per cent toilet coverage.
“We realized we had to create awareness about good sanitation practices in a big way. Setting a target to build the required number of toilets in 48 hours seemed a good idea,” said District Collector (DC), Ronald Rose.
Convincing so many people to build toilets was a challenge in itself. However, with careful planning, awareness building exercises and interpersonal communications, the community was persuaded. Ten days prior to the launch of the campaign, the DC met with district and block officers as well as tahsildars and chalked out an action plan. Thereafter, accompanied by the local MLA and public figures the team went from village to village motivating and building awareness among villagers including school children of the benefits of good sanitation practices. Mass pledges were taken and intensive CLTS training and related activities were carried out. Further, during the 10-day preparation period, they organized the supply chain and finalized the rate for material from wholesalers.
In addition, they involved the whole community, ensuring they committed to the plan. Their support was enlisted to help with carrying material, digging of pits and fixing fittings. On their part, students convinced their parents and other elders.
All families decided to go for a 6X4 structure of a bath cum toilet with the help of the incentive provided by the government. Also, with the rate finalized for the whole district, any Sarpanch could call a supplier to order material and be assured of the same price.
Salonipally was divided into 26 sections, each assigned to a team comprising a district level officer, a tasildhar and a MPDO. Each team was given a target of constructing toilets for 16 households in 48 hours. Besides motivating people by visiting every home in their section, they marked the location of toilet and in certain cases, advised how to make room for the toilet. They also had to organize masons and supervise digging of pits and laying foundation by the people themselves, while the superstructure was done by trained masons.
Significantly, all people took a break from their regular work to support this campaign. In the end, about 5-6 households had only women folk and so they needed support from the administration. Further about 12 households were unable to build their toilets owing to pregnant women or marriages being held on those days. According to Rose, people from those homes were convinced to use toilets at others’ homes.
It was certainly a big achievement when 284 toilets were constructed in two days. “We are happy as also the all the village community,” he said. “We are keen to make Sallonipally a model ‘open defecation free’ village, and to show to the people that if the villagers, officials and the district administration work together, they can achieve any kind of development in no time,” he added.