Vizianagaram currently stands close to Open Defecation Free (ODF) status at 90.55% IHHL coverage. The journey to this position has been filled with challenges and several milestones. Following several campaigns – such as 100 Hours programme during which 10,000 toilets were constructed; many mission-mode programmes and continuous triggering activities, the district’s national ranking rose to the 8th position in non-ODF category. The district is set to become ODF on 31st March, 2018. This is indeed a proud moment for the people of the district.
On this occasion, the district is gradually shifting its emphasis towards ODF sustainability. Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTs) activities are being undertaken in all the ODF gram panchayats by Swachhagrahis and village level officers on a regular basis.
However, there are still a few individuals who do not comply with the programme. They continue to defecate in the open regardless of the existence of a toilet in their home. The District Collector (DC) and Chairman of the Swachh Bharat Mission programme, Shri Vivek Yadav has therefore proposed the idea of voting against those who defecate in open so that the community itself would identify the individuals who do not act in accordance with the system as an effective tool to bring about behavioural change.
Power to vote would create a community level scrutiny for the defectors, thus enabling them towards IHHL usage, the DC believes. Further, as the earlier triggering activities and message about safe sanitation practices have been absorbed by the community, who now view ODF status of village as a matter of personal pride, the community would certainly be ready to vote out those who do not use their toilets. This innovative idea of Swachh Ballot came from the District Collector.
Swachh Ballot is a one day event where a secret ballot voting system is conducted in all ODF villages of the district to identify defying individuals. On 23rd March, 2018, a pilot event was conducted in 100 GPs of four ODF Mandals, namely Bhogapuram, Cheepurupally, Denkada, and Bondapally. This was preceded by announcements over two days, using “dandoras” (drums), carried out in those villages by grassroot workers like Swachhagrahis and Village level officials.
The following morning (24th March, 2018) was the Ballot day when ballot boxes were ready at offices of all the gram panchayats. Individuals had to write details of the defector/s on the ballot cards provided to them and drop the same in the ballot box. The cards provided were stamped with Swachh Vijayam logo, to prevent any kind of fraudulent practice while voting. The voting was conducted between 9.00 AM and 5.00 PM on polling day and all gram panchayats saw a good turnout of people to cast their votes.
Counting of votes was done on the same day and a list was prepared in all gram panchayats with the names of defectors. This list was put up on a public notice board as well as handed over to the vigilance committees (panchayat secretary, swachhagrahi, anganwadi teachers, field assistant, VRO) at the village.
The vigilance committees would now personally visit these individuals/households and would motivate them about using their toilets, until behavioural change is achieved. The District Collector would also be writing to those defectors in person to motivate them to use the IHHLs and lead a healthy life.
Upon the success of the pilot programme, the district plans to conduct a district wide Swachh Ballot once the district is declared ODF on March 31st.