The CEO of Zilla Panchayat in Kalaburagi District of Karnataka, Hephsiba Rani Korlapati has set an ambitious target of constructing 10,000 toilets in a period two weeks. The individual household latrines are meant for the rural poor and priority is being given to families that have pregnant and lactating mothers.
The toilet building campaign started on World Environment Day (June 5th) and will come to an end on 17th June. “We wanted to give a boost to the Swachh Bharat Mission and build momemtum,” the CEO said, adding that in the first week, they have covered 50% of the target.
A plantation drive has also been combined with the campaign and 5 fruit bearing trees (Guava, Chikoo, Pomegranate, Drumstick and Lemon) are being planted at each home.
“The idea is to link sanitation with nutrition and afforestation,” Korlapati said. A backward district in north Karnataka, Kalaburagi has many cases of malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality each year. “We wanted to address the issue of malnutrition holistically and point out that health and nutrition are interlinked,” she said.
Earlier, the district administration had selected 7 villages – one in each taluk to carry out a similar exercise, albeit at a much smaller scale. This pilot project was meant to push the idea of building toilets, and check the response of the communities. The response of the initial experiment was overwhelming and it culminated with a district level public function during which a baby shower programme was organized. It was a meaningful family event and the district administration used the occasion to distribute various IEC materials.
Ahead of this campaign which is being implemented on mission mode, considerable planning had gone into the project. To begin with 40 beneficiaries were identified from each of the 264 gram panchayats in seven taluks, making a total of 10,560.
In addition, the CEO had roped in officials from various departments and officers from panchayat to district levels, as also ASHA workers who were enlisted to support the project. As many as 30 nodal officers were given the responsibility of implementing the projects. Further, masons were trained and put on the job, under the supervision of technicians.
There was an effective mechanism in place for supervision. To provide guidance and ensure effective monitoring of the activities, a WhatsApp group was formed. Even as the CEO conducted several video conferences, continuous follow up was made and every officer had to post 3 pictures of every toilet being built – one of the pit, another of the super structure and one of a completed toilet.
Initially, there was some resistance. People in the area were against any kind of digging activity when there was a pregnant woman in the house. To address this superstition, nodal officers visited their homes and during discussions helped breakdown those stereotypes.
Further, the officials made an announcement that pictures of couples who build toilets will be posted in a prominent place. As the campaign progressed, they saw various inspiring images – of a mother-in-law and husband of a pregnant woman join hands to dig pits, and couples and entire families participating to construct toilets.
Needless to say, the community today is delighted with the turn of events. In fact, many of them, numbering over 10,000 have willingly participated in digging of pits alongside the masons and district officials.