Known for its Seraikela Chhau dance, the district of Seraikella Kharsawan in Jharkhand was declared open defecation free (ODF) on 6th July, 2018. As many as 1,57,246 individual household toilets were built across 9 blocks so that all families could have access to sanitation.
Ever since the first block of the district was declared ODF in 2016, under the dynamic leadership of Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Chhavi Ranjan, there has been no looking back. All the milestones in the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) were achieved collectively owing to the efforts of the Block Development Officers (BDOs), Block Coordinators (BCc), Self Help Group (SHG) members, Swachhagrahis and Mukhiyas.
Challenges and how they were addressed
Earlier, a whopping 75% of the population defecated in the open, a practice that was accepted socially. In fact, at the start of the campaign, the community was reluctant to adopt safe sanitation practices. It took several triggering and awareness building exercises on the faecal oral route – to transmission of diseases that finally convinced them. Besides, several villages were situated on rocky terrain and it was a huge challenge to carry construction material to those difficult-to-access regions from the district headquarters, particularly during the monsoons.
These challenges were solved, thanks to the special initiatives taken up by BDOs with support of SHG members and their ‘Saaman Pahoncho Andolan’ campaign that aimed to do away with the practice of open defecation and bring respect to the community. With a view to bringing about behaviour change, extensive IEC campaigns to include nukkad naatak, performed in local language and the very popular Chhau Dance that originated in the district were carried out. ‘Toilet ek Prem Katha’ was played at every opportunity to trigger the community. The Swachhta Sahyog Abhiyan built momentum and enriched activities in the last phase to achieve the ODF status.
The community was mobilised and their involvement made more impactful owing to the continuous motivation and support extended by regular field visits of Deputy Commissioner along with the Executive Engineer (PHED) and other government officials of district. The local leadership in the form of Mukhiyas did their bit to support the campaign. This strategy worked well with the locals where development happened simultaneously along with faith in sanitation for the health and wellbeing of the whole community.
At the district headquarters, the SBM-G team was consistently motivated by the State team as well as the Deputy Commissioner. Community engagement was the focus of most activities, with PRI members taking the lead in IPC with the locals.
Now that the district has been declared ODF, the District Project Management Unit (DPMU) team is gearing up to work on ODF Sustainability and ODF plus activities.
(Inputs: ZSBP-Seraikella Kharsawan, Avinash Kaur)