Even as the districts across the country observed World Environment Day with various waste management campaigns and other events; as many as 35 gram panchayats (GP) in the district of Bokaro in Jharkhand celebrated their open defecation free (ODF) status, simultaneously on the same day.
In each of the GPs, the day which incidentally was the first day of school after summer vacation began with a Gaurav Yatra (a walk of dignity) in which all government school children from all classes participated. Thereafter, saplings were planted at various spots, including the Bermo Block in Jaridih East panchayat where the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Bokaro, Mr. Rai Mahimapat Ray participated.
“It was a great achievement and people from all of walks of life who contributed to the sanitation campaign were happy,” the DC said.
Earlier, the district administration had organized several awareness-building sessions and used triggering methods that were designed to ignite a sense of shame and disgust to prompt the community to stop open defecation and to encourage them to build and use toilets. They identified natural leaders and motivated them to help change attitudes and behaviour of the community and to encourage them to adopt safe sanitation practices. Such activities certainly made an impact as people were motivated to rethink their priorities even as they learnt about the negative effects of their sanitation behaviour on their dignity and health.
In the run up to the World Environment Day in Bokaro, the district administration selected the 35 gram panchayats in which 1st and 2nd level ODF verification was completed; general cleanliness was maintained; and 90% geo-tagging was completed. In addition, a venue for each GP was selected and decorated with locally available materials. Local cultural teams were formed to entertain the gathering. Announcements about the event were made on the public address system well in advance so that people could make themselves available at that time.
The DC also held meetings with all department heads to involve their field level functionaries. Further, invitations were sent to PRI members from other panchayats to facilitate exchange of learning.
There was festive atmosphere in all the ODF GPs on 5th June. The daylong celebratory event also included football or cricket matches, and cultural festivals showcasing indigenous dances and local songs. Many also came forward to participate in the plantation drive.
At the event, ODF certificates were distributed to the sarpanchs of each GP; gifts to natural leaders; and small hand washing units to anganwadi centres. Further, mukhiyas and jalsahiyas spoke about their efforts and appealed to one and all to help sustain the ODF status; while natural leaders such as women and those who were differently abled shared their experiences.
A community lunch of khichdi, prepared by local communities themselves followed thereafter that every one partook off. In all, as many as 80,000 people participated in the event.
(With inputs from ZSBP – Bokaro)