Gondia district of Maharashtra which was declared open defecation free (ODF) on March 31, 2017 had as many as 44,604 dysfunctional toilets. Many of them had been built prior to October 2014 and became dysfunctional because they were unused. The challenge was to repair or rebuild those by changing peoples’ attitudes and without government grant.
To address this, the Zila Parishad of Gondia chalked out a time bound plan featuring various IEC (Information Education Communication) activities to bring about the required behavior change, the target date to complete the task being March 31, 2018.
As per the baseline survey of 2012, the district was home to 2,17,123 households of which 1,28,367 homes had toilets and 88786 home had no sanitation facility. To cater to the balance households without toilets, 73,859 individual household toilets (IHHL) and 20,147 shared toilets were built.
According to Rajesh Rathod, Deputy CEO, initially, 37,667 toilets were built without any support from a government scheme. For that to happen there was tremendous cooperation from officials and panchayat functionaries who formed Good Morning troops to monitor toilet usage and dissuade people from relieving themselves outdoors. They also visited homes to convince people about the need to adopt safe sanitation practices. In addition, members of NSS (National Service Scheme), Gurudeo Seva Mandal, Nehru Yuva Kendra as well as guardian officers of every Block were involved in the work.
Planning – To meet the challenge of unused toilets, a meeting was organized in Goregaon for employees, officers and volunteers of Nehru Yuva Kendra. Together they prepared a schedule for home visits and allocated villages. Good morning troops were set up and training was given to district level machinery, even as efforts were made to get people from the gram panchayats to cooperate with their initiatives.
Monitoring – Monitoring was important at every stage of the implementation process. In this regard, 8 HoDs of Gondia Zila Parishad were appointed as guardian offices and 9 other HoDs were asked to adopt one gram panchayat each. In addition, 8 consultants from DWSM (District Water and Sanitation Mission) cell, 24 employees from BRCs (Block Resource Centres) 16 volunteers from NYK, and 468 employees/Officers of panchayat level were appointed as nodal officers; that allowed for one employee/officer for one GP.
Action plan – To being with, families who owned dysfunctional toilets and those that refrained from using them were identified. Ahead of going into the field, a meeting was organized which covered – the importance of using toilets, the role played by flies in the oral-faecal route, link between health and open defecation were discussed, among other matters. Thereafter, officials visited every home without toilets, spending at least half an hour in each residence, covering about 17-20 homes per day. In all, they visited 23,568 homes and told residents to either construct their toilets or use them; failing which they might face police action. This seemed harsh – however, the cautionary measure was intended to make convince households to get their toilets without any further delay. In Gharkul gram panchayat, beneficiaries were told how to avail of MGNREGA funds for repairs.
All such efforts resulted in the repair of 14,056 toilets; and people began to use them. A weekly review was done to see if all Taluka nodal officers and district level officers and employees met their targets. Household visits made to blocks included- Amgaon (2197), Arjuni/Mor (2179), Deori (1505), Gondia (4471), Goregaon (2121), Sadak/Arjuni (2711), Salekasa (3943) and Tirora (4441).
Good Morning Pathak – A training programme on ‘Good Morning Troops’ was held for all Block Development Officers, Extension Officers, employees of Block Resource Centres on 23rd October, 2017 at 5 AM. Their responsibilities were to convey the sanitation message to people whose homes did not have toilets. It was also attended by the CEO-ZP of Gondia. When the house visits started, on the first day itself, 8 families agreed to construct toilets and their construction work was inaugurated. Also, a sum of Rs. 682,800 was collected from 569 families for toilet construction or repair.
Block level Good Morning Troops – Scores of good morning troops were deployed, visiting the blocks of Amgaon (73), Arjuni/Mor (84), Deori (68), Gondia (105), Goregaon (68), Sadak/Arjuni (39), Salekasa (33), and Tirora (113). With their help as many as 21,347 unused toilets were back in operation.
National Service Scheme (NSS) camps – After getting approval of the university, 31 NSS camps of seven days each were organized in the villages, the objective being to motivate people to get their toilets functional and use them regularly. In preparation for this a meeting of NSS officers was convened and they were given a list of dysfunctional toilets. Through those camps 3000 university students learned the concept of dignity of labour and the SBM scheme. State level camps were held in Keshori from Arjuni Morgaon Taluka.
Gurudeo Seva Mandal – The district administration held a meeting with the district president of Gurudeo Seva Mandal, Mr. Thakur and other members to seek their cooperation in the SBM-G campaign. As a result, 520 volunteers of Gurudeo Seva Mandal participated in a cleanliness drive.
Student participation – Considering that all ZP schools have become digital, as many as 865 schools of the district have been provided with scripts/films conveying the cleanliness message. Teachers have been instructed to show the clippings/scripts to students during their lessons. Besides, teachers also have the responsibility of convincing parents to construct toilets for their families. As a result, many people started using their toilets that were dysfunctional.
Debt of SHG – There are 7141 SHG (Self Help Groups) members in the district who were included in the good Morning Troops. They provided loans to people to build toilets. As many as 1795 beneficiaries built toilets with this support.
Swachhatamay Haldi Kunku – During the month of January 2018, Swachatamay Sankaranti was organized, reaching out to 1.80 lakh women of the district, including 1797 anganwadis workers To promote hygiene and sanitation among them, they were provided with washing soap and sanitary pads, and asked to use toilets at all times.
All these activities helped in converting 37,667 dysfunctional toilets into functional ones, all of which are now being used.