Winning an open defecation free (ODF) status may have been easy for the Bollavaram community in Muppala Mandal of Guntur district. But how were they to sustain it? That was the question uppermost in the minds of the sanitation team at the Gram Panchayat. They had to find ways to motivate the community to end OD completely.
In this regard, the team devised a mechanism by which everyone watches over the other, to keep them in check. It was decided that if any community member found someone defecating in the open, he/she would report it to the Sarpanch who would either counsel the perpetrator or levy a small fine; the matter was left to his discretion.
In addition, to positively motivate people, the Panchayat would reward those who reported instances of open defecation.
Bollavaram which is home to 353 households and a total of 1433 residents was declared ODF in 2015.
The achievement was no small feat. To begin with, Mandal officials discussed the importance of sanitation with the Sarpanch and Panchayat secretaries and the need to motivate the community to work towards complete sanitation. Thereafter, the Sarpanch, the Panchayat Secretary, ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers visited individual households to explain the health benefits of sanitation, seeking their cooperation in endeavours to keep the village clean.
Thereafter, the first step was to construct toilets. By then though many households wanted to have a toilet in their homes, they had financial and space constraints.
To address this, the Gram Panchayat team detailed out the process of assistance after which initial construction took place. For a few families, investing the initial sum was a problem. The Sarpanch addressed this by pooling in some money and also got discounts on raw material to reduce their financial burden.
In addition, the GP team worked with mandal officials to ensure that bulk construction took place so that some money could be saved. Further, material for bulk construction was procured from local suppliers who provided a fair amount of discount.
Post construction of the toilet posed other challenges. Having defecated in the open all their lives, people had to get used to using toilets. Many were under the impression that only when there was no space left to defecate in the open, should they to use the toilets. So the GP team had to visit homes regularly to explain why ending open defecation was important individually and for the village as a whole.