The district of Kishanganj in Bihar achieved open defecation free (ODF) status within a year after commencing the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) campaign. The achievement could be attributed to the innovative approaches adopted for convincing people to build toilets and bringing about behaviour change through IEC activities, community involvement and ODF War Room.
Situated in the top most fringe of Bihar – bordering Nepal in the north, and West Bengal in the east; the district features variations in linguistic and cultural traditions. Its challenges pertain to linguistic issues, socio-economic situation, and its location in cyclonic, flood prone and seismic zone that led to certain setbacks in the Mission.
However, the challenges were tackled using a holistic approach and an effective IEC strategy which involved the rural population and a strategic convergence plan for SBM with other departments. The various effective interventions adopted by Kishanganj are as follows-
Capacity building: To begin with, an intensive 5-day capacity building training was organized for team SBM that were to be engaged in conducting IEC campaigns and motivational activities among the village communities. Given that majority of the people spoke Soorjapuri (similar to Bengali) the trainers had to speak the same to be understood. They also needed to convince people to construct toilets with roofs for the benefit of the whole family.
Monitoring teams: Thereafter, a specially designated monitoring and motivation team was constituted in every ward, comprising angwanwadi sevikas, sahayikas, ASHA workers Jeevika didis, members of ward implementation and management committee ( WIMC) and swachhagrahis. The ward team was monitored by a panchayat level officer (PLO) with awas sahayak, panchayat sachiv, panchayat rojgaar sevak etc., on deputation. Each PLO catered to 2-3 ward level teams and all these teams reported to the Block level supervisory rank officer.
Motivational activities: The entire operation was monitored through the block war room headed by the Block Development Officer (BDO) and district war room overseen by the Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak (ZSBP). Daily analysis of the reports pointed to the panchayats that needed additional focus and extra efforts such as Nukkad Natak, Ratri Chaupaal or Movie Show and additional motivation. In addition, pamphlets in Urdu and Hindi on ODF awareness were distributed to cater to the Urdu speaking population.
Raised toilets, sturdy roofs: Time and again, beneficiaries were informed about the necessity to construct raised toilets in flood prone areas, with sturdy roofs that would remain intact during cyclones, rather than roofs made of tin or asbestos sheets. As a result, 85-90% of the toilets constructed in the district had solid RCC roofs and raised chambers and pits to enable toilet access during the monsoons as well.
Subsidised construction material: A reduction in the price of construction materials was proposed to the District Magistrate who enacted the same, making available bricks at the rate of Rs. 6800 per 1000 pieces; cement at Rs. 300-350 per bag depending on the quality the beneficiary wanted to use; toilet pan at Rs. 250 while the beneficiary was allowed to take sand from the river bank for free at their ease. This reduction in price encouraged the beneficiaries to construct their toilets within Rs. 12000. For people who faced scarcity of construction material, how bamboo could be used as shuttering instead of bricks was demonstrated.
Regular follow-up: Regular meetings with the entire block team to review of progress of onsite work, geotagging and incentive payment were held. In addition, a data centre was established to streamline and centralize entry of forms.
Inputs: Gopendra Yadav, ZSBP-Kishanganj