The Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar has appealed to the people to stop using plastics ahead of the state ban on plastics that will be in effect from 14th December, 2018. In anticipation of this, the district administration of Bhojpur in Bihar has trained unemployed and destitute women to make paper and cloth bags, generating demand for them when the plastic ban comes to effect. The process will empower women and at the same time provide an alternative source of livelihood.
According to Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak (ZSBP), Mr. Nikhil Singh, the Deputy Development Commissioner (DDC), Mr. Shashank Shubhankar had organized such training to the womenfolk of the district by the Rural Self Employment Training Institute (RSETI) from 22nd to 31st October.
About 35 women mobilized by Jeevika were trained by RSETI-Koilwar in Bhojpur district. They learnt to make paper and cloth bags, envelopes and files and other stationery items which will replace polythene bags and other single use plastics.
It will be a pilot project, first implemented in 19 Namami Gange villages of the district and then in other blocks, in a phased manner. Such a training centre will be under the control of the gram panchayat and overviewed by the DDC.
Significantly, the initiative will receive support from Jeevika. The Government of Bihar (GoB), through the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), an autonomous body under the Department of Rural Development, is spearheading BRLPS, locally known as Jeevika with the objective of social and economic empowerment of the rural poor.
The district administration has reached out to corporates to sell the bags produced by the women.
Plans are also in the pipeline to get support from artisans of Arunachal Pradesh to train local women on making dustbins using bamboo which will be placed at strategic places to ensure clean public spaces and surroundings.
“We are keen to promote rural employment and a self sustainable village economy along the lines of Gandhiji’s vision; and the local leadership believes in that,” Nikhil said.
Sanitation coverage of Bhojpur in October 2014 was around 32%. As on 3rd December, 2018, sanitation coverage has increased to 84.13% and the target for the district to become ODF is 31st December, 2018. So far, under SBM-G, as many as 1.8 lakh toilets were built across the district, leaving a balance of about 50,000.
As far as challenges are concerned, the marginalized Mushar community that belongs to the scheduled caste took a tough stance against SBM activities; resisting attempts to bring about behavior change. Comprising mainly landless labourers and those engaged in pig farming, they lived on the outskirts of the villages, and their sanitation status was pathetic.
To address this, the district administration used a convergence of MNREGA and other departments including JEEVIKA. Further, with support of SHGs, they organized skill training and MNREGA to construct pig sheds. Single or cluster toilets were built in each of their villages. At first only women used those toilets. To bring about behavior change and persuade men to do the same, the support of Feedback Foundation and UNICEF was taken.
Once the district is declared ODF by end December, a regulation will be in place to impose a penalty for open defecation.
(Inputs: Nikhil, ZSBP)