In the district of Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh, tribal families prefer to reside in their own farms, thereby isolating themselves from both their neighbours and others in the community. Under such circumstances, conventional measures used in other districts to bring about behaviour change and check open defecation was not possible. Nevertheless, the villages and blocks in the district are gradually becoming open defecation free (ODF).
“There is no clustered habitation, no village abadi and thus we have not been able to replicate what has been done in other districts – such as carrying out morning follow-up by means of Nigrani Samitis,” explained District Collector, Mr. Ganesh Mishra.
Yet, that villages are becoming ODF is nothing short of magic, he added, indicating that the district administration has had to unlearn all that was done in the district of Harda. Although CLTS (community led total sanitation) approach worked well in other places, they had to devise other strategies in Alirajpur with support from UNICEF, as there was no community as such.
When the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBMG) campaign was started in October 2014, toilet coverage was about 24.05% and out of a total of 1,11,573 households, just 26,836 homes had toilets. Over the last 3 years as many as 70,506 toilets were built, increasing coverage to 87.34%. The district has a target to become ODF on 19th November, 2017.
Other than the fact that homes were located at quite a distance from each other, the greatest challenge was to convince people to use water instead of stone. Moreover, there were very few vendors and hence the cost of construction material was rather high. Further, considering that most of the tribal community spoke Bhili, it was difficult for the motivators to communicate with them effectively in their own language.
According to Mr. Mishra, enlisting the support of a panchayat sarpanch and making him/her the leader of the local transformation was their winning move. In addition, they utilised as many as 180 students residing in the local hostels for community mobilisation and morning follow-up. In that sense, their initiative could be termed – ‘hostel led total sanitation.’ As for door to door awareness of households, it was done through, village preraks, school teachers, anganwadis, as also the Patel of the village, kotwar and influential leaders in the gram panchayat. At public spaces, awareness on safe sanitation practices was spread through graphic bill boards and competitions such as Bhai No.1.
Strategies used to convince people of the need for toilets
Mass triggering was carried out at community level which encouraged people to build their own toilets without support from the district. Further, door to door follow-up was done to convince them to build low cost safe toilets. Community pressure led to construction in some cases as the once convinced, those who had toilets did not allow others to relieve themselves in the open.
Supply-chain mechanism was strengthened by setting up local vendors at GP level, Self Help Groups (SHGs) were mobilised to provide support and material was provided free of cost to economically weaker families.
In addition, various gram panchayats linked defecation status with benefits to be given from other schemes. Positive discrimination of toilet users worked well. Normally, in all GPs, residents would gather together to get their rations from the public distribution shops. However, the shop keepers insisted on two lines – a VIP line for toilet users and a normal line for the rest. In that manner, toilet users were given preference in all spheres.
While in many cases, there was self-construction of toilets, in some cases masons were arranged by the sarpanch. In both cases, most of the beneficiaries had to carry construction material on their heads or on cycles. Also, the district officials ensured innovative use of low density concrete blocks.
Monitoring and Sustainability
Strict verification protocol is being adopted, according to Mr. Mishra. The verification process is of course laborious and time consuming as they have to visit each house and inspect every toilet. In most cases, this involves extensive foot travel, normally 500 meters for one household for which the district administration has engaged volunteers and students. Until each household is found to be using a toilet, the panchayat is not declared ODF. Thereafter, block level verification is done after 3 months and district level verification and door to door use of toilet checks are done after the next 3 months. This ensures that ODF status is monitored and sustained.