People of the district of Sitamarhi in Bihar contributed to digging of as many as 1,03,232 pits as a part of their campaign titled Gaddha Khodo Shauchalay Banao Abhiyan on 11th June 2018. The move was intended to give a boost to the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign and complete the balance toilets required to make the district open defecation free (ODF).
The campaign began at 8 am on 11th June when the District Magistrate, Dr. Ranjeet Kumar Singh himself dug 8 pits. As for the rest of the pits, every one pitched in to help. From district officials, to personnel from various government departments to PRI representatives to individuals from all walks of life – everyone joined in to meet the target and bring about access to sanitation for all.
Considered the birth place of Sita (Jagat Janani MaaJaanki), Sitamarhi in Bihar, is a northern district of Bihar, located near the Nepal border. It is one of the most backward districts of the country with 85% of its population living below the poverty line and literacy pegged at 52%. The district is also prone to natural disasters, going by the 13 national disasters it has experienced so far. Floods are common each year and the district is low of various socio-economic indicators such as literacy, owing to which, it has been adopted as Niti Aayoga’s Aspirational District.
As far as sanitation is concerned, in October 2014, coverage was barely 21.3%. Over the past 3 years, as many as 3.11 lakhs toilets were built; of which 2.38 lakhs were completed in 2017. In addition to such toilet construction activity, there has been extensive triggering and awareness building exercises with a view to bringing about behaviour change. Yet, at the beginning of June 2018, approximately 1.10 lakh households still needed toilets.
According to ZSBP-Sitamarhi, Guru Ratnam, the Gaddha Khodo Shauchalay Banao campaign was called for by the District Magistrate who has previous run other ambitious campaigns such as enrolling of 17,006 students in one hour in government schools; and organizing a Prabhat Pheri that saw a record attendance of 16 lakh people about 10 days ago.
It was riding on this mass mobilization momentum that the pit digging campaign was organized. Ahead of the campaign, the district administration had carried out a detailed survey of households left out of the 2012 Baseline Survey. Thereafter, trained swachhagrahis or motivators were sent out to those homes to convince them to build toilets. People were persuaded to provide free labour for the pit digging campaign.
In addition, a nodal officer was assigned to every 200 households, even as multi-layered monitoring was carried out.
Guru Ratnam said that at 5 pm on 11th June, digging of 56754 pits was completed, leaving a balance of 44,000 pits. Most of all, the event showcased people-power and what the effective convergence of all government departments, private sector and the general public could achieve when they cooperated and worked together for a noble cause. Even the local MLAs and MPs joined in and offered their support.
As of now, of the 17 blocks in the district, 3 are ODF. This Gaddha Khodo Shauchalay Banao Abhiyan is likely to make the remaining 14 blocks ODF, following which a detailed verification will be done.