Swachhagrahis of Hathras


Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) is undoubtedly the largest behavioural change programme in the world.  To effectively bring about the required behaviour change in sanitation, swachhagrahis play a key role, considering they are the front-line force of the campaign.  Having realised this, the District Magistrate (DM) of Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Amit Kumar Singh gave additional focus to capacity building of Swachhagrahis on lines similar to those of HR Departments in corporate firms which take care of their employees.

Universally, labour turnover is attributed to employees losing interest in their work or if they do not receive incentives.  At times, it could be because they inadequately trained; or owing to communication gaps between the employee and the administration; or even if they feel they do not belong to the team.  For all these reasons, the employee may not deliver, causing him/her to be considered a liability to the organisation.  All this applies to Swachhagrahis too.

Recruitment and training

Hence, with a view to sustaining their enthusiasm and energy in the sanitation campaign, the district administration of Hathras involved top district administration including Chief Development Officer (CDO), District Panchayati Raj Officer (DPRO) in the recruitment/interview process.  As many as 220 swachhagrahis were recruited; and in the minds of the district team, it was established that swachhagrahis were critical to the SBM programme.

Several CAS (community approaches to sanitation) trainings were held in the best of venues in Hathras, making certain that quality of trainings was top-notch.  The DM frequently visited the venue when training was in progress to ensure that everything was well organised and all matters were taken care of.

Refresher training, outings and get-togethers

In order to keep energy levels high, 2-day refresher trainings were organised every 2 months. These refresher trainings apart from the regular CAS training module involved fun team activities such as talent shows, poetry competition, lemon-spoon race, paper dance, tug-of-war etc.  In addition, special Holi-milan, New-Year get-togethers or ‘Lunch with DM’ were organised for the swachhagrahis.  It certainly proved to be energizing, making the motivators feel valued.


Going beyond the guidelines

State Guidelines suggested deploying of one swachhagrahi per village.  However, in Hathras, officials realised that a lone swachhagrahi may not be effective or confident enough to spread the sanitation message.  Moreover, more often than not, people did not care to listen to people from their own village.

Taking this into consideration, as many as 38 teams were formed in Hathras, each with 5-6 swachhagrahis.  These teams rather than individuals were allocated villages and were responsible for making them ODF.  As a team, swachhagrahis felt more confident in spreading the sanitation message.

Among their responsibilities were conducting surveys, photo-tagging (geo-tagging) of toilets, quality-check, ODF verification, etc. Further, a Whatsapp group of Swachhagrahis was created.  With the DM on the group, any information or complaint by a Swachhagrahi was taken seriously and acted upon. This empowered Swachhagrahis and helped the district administration in ensuring quality implementation of scheme, while alerting them to the ground realities before it was too late.

Healthy competition

Every Swachhagrahi team had a team name, a team tagline and team captains. On display at the district headquarters was a leadership board which listed all the teams in the order of villages made ODF by them.  Special mention was made of top performing teams and their efforts were appreciated by the DM, during the get-togethers.  Cheques similar to the ones given in cricket for man-of-the-match were given to the outstanding teams for the villages made ODF by them. The leadership board created a spirit of healthy competition among the swachhagrahis, making them keen to perform even better.

Timely payment

Timely and transparent payment to the swachhagrahi teams based on their performance encouraged them to work harder to get their villages ODF.  Some swachhagrahis earned upto Rs. 50,000 for their performance.

New Year gifts: ODF calendars/ Movie screenings

Swachhagrahis were given ODF New Year calendars, which made them feel special. They were also involved in a short movie titled ‘Shauchalay – Ek Pratigya’ made in Hathras which was shown in all the villages of Hathras. Further, ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ was screened for their benefit.


Overall, the investment in Swachhagrahis paid rich dividends in terms of SBM progress.  The SBM-G campaign made Hathras ODF while becoming a jan andolan.  While the first village was declared ODF in May 2017, all 658 villages were declared ODF by September 2018, owing to the efforts of the swachhagrahis.  Behaviour change is visible across the villages today.  Further, Swachhagrahis played a crucial role in campaigns such as Rakhi ki Laaz, Pehla Diya Sahuchalay Par, Gaddha Khodo Abhiyan, Shandar Shauchalay, which were hugely popular among the communities.

Inspiring incidents

Champaran – Even though the district administration did not announce that remuneration will be paid to swachhagrahis going to Champaran for the Prime Minister’s event (Chalo Champaran) in April 2018, all swachhagrahis were willing to go for the event.  They performed exceptionally well in the districts, going by the requests from officials in Bihar requesting the Hathras contingent to extend their stay.

Awards – While 3 swachhagrahis were awarded by the Chief Minister, 3 others were felicitated by him.

Marriage card – Some of the swachhagrahis were so involved with the SBM that it became a part of their day to day life.  Swachhagrahi Khushbu Pundir printed the SBM logo along with tagline ‘Mera Shauchalay Meri Shaan’ on her wedding card.

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