SHS campaign brings people of Sivagangai together


Thooimaiye Sevai campaign, also called Swachhata Hi Seva in other parts of the country, held in the Sivagangai District of Tamil Nadu from September 15 to October 2, 2017 brought together people from different fields for a common cause.  From District Collector to Project Director, department officials and the common man, the intensive sanitation campaign was intended to make surroundings across the district both clean and green.

Increasing the number of toilets being built that would eventually lead to making the district open defecation free (ODF) was the overriding aim of the exercise, according to District Collector, G. Latha.

The success of the campaign in this district from where the renowned Chettinad cuisine originates can be attributed to the active participation of the leaders of the country and district, she added.

Planning for the campaign started well in advance when officials visited hospitals, schools and anganwadis to study their sanitation situation.  Based on the findings, an action plan was devised with activities to clean up each of those institutions scheduled during the two week period. 

Sivagangai DC1

A highlight of the campaign was cleaning of places that had historical and religious significance – such as the 1000 year old Koliangudi temple; Kalayarkoil the site where the famous battle was fought between the British and Muthu Vaduga Natha Thevar; and Kannathal temple in Nattarasankottai temple that is visited by devotees who wish to be healed for eye defects and other ailments. 

Further, mass cleaning of Manamudurai station saw law scale participation including that of 100 Indo Tibetan Police and 100 Martha Nursing students.  Also, the Rural Development Office led mass cleaning and excavation activity at Okkur Massathiyar tower named after the famous poet; Pillayarpatti temple renowned for the car festival of lord Vinayaka and the bus stand.

The DC personally visited many of these locations and undertook cleaning activity on a daily basis.  She also held daily meetings with zonal officers to monitor construction of IHHLs.  Work carried out during the fortnight led to around 147 panchayats becoming ODF during the period as against 140 that were ODF earlier, making a total of 287 ODF panchayats.

Participation of various ministers, members of parliament and other officials motivated others to pitch in.  Among them was celebrity Kanjakarrupa who visited the Kallal Block and undertook the sanitation pledge.  Thereafter, the actor spoke about the need to use toilets and keeping surroundings clean.  Meanwhile, Kundrakudi Adigalar visited the Valapari Higher Secondary School in Singampunari Block for a mass cleaning exercise.  In addition, over 100 saplings were planted at various locations.

With 158 panchayats yet to become ODF, the District Collector has set a target of making the entire district ODF by the end of November 2017.

Sivagangai DC


ANM worker goes the extra mile


As a nurse, Deepa Joshi did know better about the harmful effects of poor sanitation.  About the diseases associated with poor sanitation and how they affected children’s physical and cognitive development as well as school attendance, particularly among the girls, she was well aware of.

So when the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) campaign commenced in Rudrapur Block of Udham Singh Nagar District in Uttarakhand, the ANM (Auxiliary Nursing and Midwifery) worker gave her whole-hearted support to the district administration.  “I took it on myself to convey the benefits of safe sanitation practices to the village communities,” Joshi recalled.

At that point in time, 20 per cent of the people in the district had no access to toilets.  Soon after the SBM orientation conducted by the district administration she went from home to home, convincing women of the need to build and use toilets.  Thereafter, she joined the Nigrani Samiti and along with a team carried out their vigil starting at 4.30 am and those found defecating in the open were advised against the practice and garlanded.  “It was done in a spirit of goodwill and not to offend them,” she clarified.

In the very backward village of Malshi, the families neither had room nor money to build toilets.  Knowing that they needed support badly, the district administration organized construction of 36 community toilets, ensuring that every household had access to the same.  When the programme gained momentum, people gradually came forward to build toilets with their own money.

Owing to the efforts of this swachhta champion, 15 villages in her block were made open defecation free (ODF) on 30th September, 2016.  Joshi vouches for the fact that many of the toilets build are being used and well maintained.  Initially, although some were keeping their goats in the facility, those families have been convinced to clean the area and use them.

Udham Singh Nagar is home to 390 gram panchayats and 55 of them are in the Rudrapur block.  Sanitation coverage before the start of the sanitation campaign was barely 67%.  The district has a rather high water table and even a little rainfall causes water logging.  In the pipeline are plans to construct an effective sewerage system.

As far as health issues are concerned, Joshi has worked with the ICDS Centres to educate mothers about the importance of hand washing before eating food and after using toilets.  “In 2014-2015 there were about 2000 diarrhea cases in the district but now the number has decreased dramatically,” she said.

She has also conducted women’s meetings on menstrual health management; and held sessions in nearly 50 schools and anganwadis about hygiene and hand washing practices.  Today there are about 107 women workers who help to sustain ODF status and assist with village hygiene as well as waste management.

Citizens join hands to clean River Tamirabarani


As a part of the ongoing Swachhata Hi Seva campaign that is being observed across the country, as many as 15,000 people of the district of Tirunelveli were involved in a massive cleaning drive on the banks of River Tamirabarani on 24th September, 2017.

From school and college students to volunteers and government staff and members of staff associations, the work of clearing a 60-kms stretch of both banks of the river from Pabanasam to Tirunelveli four-way bridge began at 7 AM and ended at 11.30 AM, according to Head Assistance, District Collectorate Office, Ms. Padma Selvakumari.

Garbage strewn about and waste such as plastic, paper and cloth were removed. Further, plants and shrubs including Acacia and water hyacinth, which spread quickly, block light entering the water and reduce oxygen levels while making water quality poor were removed.

The cleanliness drive was carried out in September owing to heavy rains that are expected in October-November which cause flooding in the river.

‘Mission Clean Tamirabarani’ was an initiative of the District Collector, Mr. Sandeep Nanduri who inaugurated the drive to clean the only perennial river of Tamil Nadu that flows through the districts of Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar and Thoothukudi and into the Gulf of Mannar. Significantly, the river is the main source of drinking water and provides a large percentage for irrigation and power generation too. However, in the recently years, it has been subjected to inflows of untreated sewer; industrial effluents, dumping etc. which have greatly reduced its water quality.


In fact, the river that originates in the Western Ghats has been identified as one of the vulnerable areas by Anna University, according to Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Mr. Palani. In response to this, phase I of the cleaning was held on 16th July, 2017 when six locations were cleaned across a stretch of 6 kms.

Ahead of the campaign, the Collector convened monthly meetings for school and college authorities in this regard. Press releases were issued, notices put up and announcements made at all institutions, seeking public support.

In addition, towards sustaining the river’s cleanliness, awareness programmes are being held regularly in schools, colleges and villages located on the banks of the river.

As far as sanitation is concerned, Tirunelveli which had 52% coverage in October 2014 now has 70% coverage. According to Palani, the target for the district to become open defecation free is 31st October, 2017.

“The main challenge in the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission is related to behaviour change, particularly among the men who do not seem to care to use toilets even if they have them at home,” he said. To address this, awareness building exercises have been intensified.

In April 2017, DRDA had identified the requirement to build about 90,000 toilets while 55,000 were found to be defunct. To date, 28,000 toilets have been constructed, 20,000 defunct toilets have been rectified by individual households, 9478 damaged toilets rebuilt and construction of 62,000 toilets is underway.

Holistic approach to sanitation makes Nizamabad ODF


The princely district of Nizamabad in Telangana that derived its name from the 18th century Nizam of Hyderabad was declared open defecation free (ODF) on 27th September, 2017.  The success of the district’s Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBMG) campaign has been attributed to their holistic approach to sanitation.

According to Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Mr. Karnati Venkateswarlu, construction of toilets was just one aspect of the campaign.  To achieve total sanitation, significant focus was also given to developing common facilities such as community soak pits, dumping yards, burial grounds and other aspects of village sanitation as also convergence with MNREGA.

Majority of the individual household latrines (IHHL) constructed in the district were bath cum toilet models measuring 5X7 feet, costing Rs.12,000 per unit.  “This ensured privacy for the womenfolk and regular usage by all members of a family,” Mr. Venkateswarlu said.

Further, all beneficiaries were asked to contribute Rs.900 per unit which was deposited in the Self Help Group (SHG) village organisation account which was used for purchasing dustbins, water drums, brushes and other requirements in bulk.  “This allowed them to take ownership of their facility,” he added.

As per the baseline survey of 2012, of the 2, 27,349 households in the district, 67,777 homes had toilets at home.  From the balance 1,59,672 homes that needed toilets, 64,346 families that were above BPL (below poverty line) built their own toilets.  The balance 95,326 toilets were constructed through MGREGA and SBM funds.

Awareness building

As far as challenges were concerned, the major concern as in other rural areas of the country was that people were accustomed to defecating in the open.  Many of them seemed comfortable doing so and therefore did not wish to cooperate initially.  To address this large scale Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) training was provided to Cluster Coordinators, Presidents of Village Organizations, Kalajathra teams as also SHGs and Sarpanchs and PRI members.  Sarpanchs and representatives from each mandal were appointed as change agents to monitor SBM work.

Training of masons

With the large number of toilets that had to be built, DRDA organised training programmes at the district headquarters by instructors from the Indian Technical Institutes.  Trainees were selected from among rural youth and post training, they were deployed at the various mandals and they in-turn trained village youth at the mandal headquarters.  As for the regular masons from each of the villages, their support was garnered and work was allotted to them in bulk so they could complete units without any interruption.

Availability of construction material

When it came to construction, increased cost and unavailability of material such as sand, cement, rings and bricks posed major problems.  In this regard, the tehsildars were persuaded to ensure supply of sand from the nearby quarries.  Furthermore, bulk orders for cement and cement bricks were placed with ACC Cements in Visakhapatnam, thus bringing down the cost of material to some extent.

Community involvement

With a view to involving the community, DRDA officials began with awareness programmes for members of SHGs, covering the link between safe sanitation and health and faecal oral transmission.  Similar programmes were held at schools and colleges, where groups were formed to prevail upon families who did not have toilets at home to convince them to construct them.

Local cultural troops were formed who went from village to village, portraying the benefits of sanitation creatively through Kalajataras.  At the village level, Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSC) were formed that led to constitution of village organisations and SHGs as also the joint account in the name of the VWSC while authorising the VO president, Sarpanch and Gram Panchayat secretary to operate the funds.


Also, a nodal officer was appointed for every block and various sub-committees were formed for surveys, procurement, vigilance and social audit.  Their tasks were to review construction activity periodically and speed up construction activity to achieve the targets.

Strategies that worked

Construction of toilet cum bath with a contribution of Rs.900 per beneficiary to the SHGs for purchasing of cleaning maintenance materials at a subsidised price was a novel project in Nizamabad, according to the project director.

In many cases, the beneficiaries assisted the masons by digging pits.  There were a few instances of village committees imposing a penalty of those found defecating in the open.

Further, at the constituency level, the district collector had meetings with MLAs and MLCs to garner their support in motivating communities during training programmes.  Also, at district level, the District Collector each week reviewed the progress through video conferencing.  Whenever a village was declared ODF, public representatives attended meetings at the village to felicitate active participants.  All government departments – education, health, Panchayati Raj, DRDA, etc. were involved in the campaign.


In a few villages of rural Nizamabad, people did not have space to construct toilets.  In such cases, a toilet super structure was constructed on the first floor and twin pits were constructed at the ground level and a connection made.  In a few other instances, super structures were constructed above ground level and twin pits below the structure on the ground.  This worked well to ensure that families with space restraints had their own toilets.

Source of motivation

What the Swachh Bharat Mission stands for and how it would contribute to improving quality of rural life and at the same time ensure health and progress of every individual in every village and district was motivation enough, the DRDA chief said.

Cuddalore DC walks the talk


Having made safe sanitation a priority, the District Collector of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Prashant M. Wadnere went a step further and got involved in the actual construction of a toilet in Karamanikuppam village on 17th September, 2017.

During the recently concluded Swachhata Hi Seva campaign, he initiated excavation work and participated in laying of plain cement concrete (PCC), building a ramp and placing bricks.  Thereafter, he spent close to half a day and completed construction of a toilet upto the floor level.

Leading by example, he inspired other district officials and other village leaders to follow suit and boost the process of construction of toilets.  Further, convergence with all departments helped, resulting in building of three times the number of toilets built earlier.

One of the highlights of the campaign was the Swachhta Pledge that was taken by the officials of the district administration and District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).  This was followed by the inauguration of the ‘Thooimaye Sevai’ campaign that involved flagging off of Thooimaye Rathnam when vehicles carrying sanitation messages were taken through villages; followed by a plantation drive.

During the campaign, several school and college rallies were held, with support from the Education Department.  In addition massive cleaning of public spaces including the Silver Beach was undertaken by NGOs, Thooimai Kavalars, Self Help Groups and Municipal sanitary workers with large scale community participation.  The health department pitched in and supported mass cleaning by members of NCC, NSS and scouts; while the Highways Department took up cleaning of roads and culverts.

Alongside cleaning activities, there were signature campaigns and awareness programmes on usage of toilets conducted by Tamil Nadu Solid and Liquid Resource Management Unit (TNSRLM).

The number of toilets constructed during the campaign period was 4589, although work had been started for over 10,000 toilets.  Moreover, over 100 public spaces, 15 tourist spots and 10 iconic places were thoroughly cleaned and a total of 30 road rallies were held.

The campaign culminated with a celebration on Gandhi Jayanthi when two blocks – Panruti and Parangipettai were declared open defecation free.  While 21 of the 42 panchayats in Panruti were declared ODF earlier, the remaining 21 were declared ODF on the occasion.  Similarly, 20 of the 41 panchayats in Parangipettai were ODF earlier, and 21 of them were declared ODF that day.

Truth Vs Hype – rebuttal


By Dr. Nipun Vinayak

I have never ever written reactively to media. There were days in Nanded, where I worked as Municipal Commissioner, and where, speaking humbly, work in the city was being acclaimed, when one day, since I could not visit a site (my wife had a medical emergency) where a senior journalist had asked me to visit  – he wrote an editorial, saying that my work was ‘nirashajanak‘ (disappointing). The article did not affect me a bit, and I went about my work. Thankfully, people of Nanded saw me day in and day out in the field, in slums, and refused to base their opinion on that article.

Being passionate about the subject, and having been trained in community approach, I myself get disturbed when Swachh Bharat leaves track of behaviour change approach and I mince no words in either trying to correct it myself, or bring it to the notice of concerned. However, the way ‘Truth vs Hype’ programme on NDTV projected Swachh Bharat yesterday, i feel the programme should be renamed ‘Truth vs Lies’ – for a misrepresentation is nothing but a lie.   Here is why.

Swachh Bharat is not something that can be painted with one brush. From the motivators in Punjab, who actually went to the extent of picking up shit in their own hands to trigger the population, to common people who not only built toilets, but also utilised the opportunity to build bathrooms along with that; from the spirit of Haryana – starting from Panchkula, Karnal, and then spreading to the entire State – exemplified by two young girls of Karnal, who built a toilet by going against their parents, and dissociation of toilet construction with incentive money; from thousands of women belonging to Mahila Mandals of district Mandi in Himachal, who sweep the streets of their village every Sunday, have dug soak pits, and moved on to celebrating birth of a girl child, and became so empowered that they began to defy the social custom of having to stay in unhygienic stables during their menses; from hordes of villages in districts like Shamli, Varanasi, Bijnaur, Agra, Hathras, Saharanpur of Uttar Pradesh, where there has been a massive shift from contractor-driven construction of toilets of earlier days to self-construction and to focus on usage, and where immense effort has been undertaken to build capacities of implementing staff in community approaches, where ODF war rooms have been set up to constantly break bottlenecks, where a motivator, even on the day of delivery of his wife, chooses to stay in the village, since that is being declared ODF that day; from Rohtas of Bihar, where the poorest Moosahars have also been engaged in the programme, and thousands of self-help group women of Jeevika engaged all over Bihar are in the process of behavior change; from a village youth in Assam who has been weaned away from a dangerous path by absorption in this pious work; from Hardas, Narsingpurs, and Sehores of Madhya Pradesh where there are countless stories of human grit displayed in Swachh Bharat- such as the gulabi gang –women wearing pink saarees and doing bhajans early morning on the pond side, shooing away open defecators, to tippy tap innovation of Sehore, making hand washing easier in schools and anganwadis, to ODF Olympics, group sports held in ODF villages to bond people further together, to motivators even forgoing their food, if required, while staying overnight in villages, motivating people; to districts of Chhattisgarh, where people and administration worked to build toilets, not for money, but after getting convinced that open defecation affects their health, where lakhs of children wrote letters to their parents on a single day, requesting them to build toilets for them, where adolescent girls of ‘Orange Brigade’ in Mungeli district took it upon themselves to lead the movement, where Padmashree Phulwasan Devi led more than a lakh women in Rajnandgaon district in this movement; from Chikamaglur district of Karnataka, where moved by a teenager girl Suneetha, whose father refused to build toilet in house, the taluka team built toilet in a day out of their pocket, where they engaged with tribals, winning over first their leader/opinion maker; from Kerala, where the State pushed 3 Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle quite effectively, to the extent of conducting ‘green’ elections – with minimal generation of waste; to Tamil Nadu, where successful solid waste biogas plants have been set up in Coimbatore, and where the self-help group women are in the lead of this movement; Swachh Bharat is all of this and much more. These stories will perhaps, never come in mainstream media. But these are truth; these signify change.

Let us now look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that sanitation coverage in this country increased at a dismal annual rate of 1% for three decades from 1981-2011. In Swachh Bharat, this pace has increased ten times, with sanitation coverage increasing roughly 10% every year. Do we want to continue at 1% and make India ODF in 70 years? The increase of pace does not mean that processes have been lost sight of. On the contrary, Swachh Bharat, unlike any other sanitation programme before, has focused most on engagement of people and on behavior change. For the first time, Swachh Bharat introduced the concept of ODF –Open Defecation Free that signified two key things. One, the perspective changed now to elimination of open defecation, and not construction of toilets. The ODF approach includes usage of toilets – obviously, unless the toilets are used, open defecation will continue! As part of verification, the village is checked for any signs of open defecation, besides confirming usage of toilets from households. Secondly, ODF changed the concept of sanitation from individual to collective – this is in tune with the understanding that sanitation is a public good, and that good health requires that everyone in the community uses toilets. For the first time, any government programme has dared to measure outcomes, not just outputs. A complex factor, such as behavior change is being captured in the ODF parameter, since unless there is a behavior change, there cannot be usage. All this has not only been laid in policy, it is part of part of implementation, and part of monitoring. This ODF concept is in tune with what Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj said more than half a century ago:

“तैसेचि करावे चरसंडास । मळ दिसोंचि न द्यावा कोणास । आपुल्या मळाची आपणांस । व्यवस्था लावणें सोयीचें ॥नदीकिनारीं वा बोरंगांत । शौचासि जाती स्त्रियादि समस्त । ती कुचंबणा आणि घाण निश्चित । दूर होईल चरसंडासे ॥”

(It means, human excreta should not be visible to anyone including human beings, animals, birds and creatures like flies. We must dispose off our excreta properly. If we use toilets (those days चर संडास were in use), it will take care of disposal and also will free the women from agonies of going for defecation in open)

Some of the above examples would have underlined another thing about Swachh Bharat – that Prime Minister has often mentioned. Swachh Bharat is not a typical government programme. It is a Janandolan that is involving the people. In a typical government programme, government provides a good or a service to people, the ‘beneficiaries’. The way to measure the progress of that scheme is whether that good or service has reached people. Here we are talking of changing behaviours – both of implementers, who are to get into facilitators’ role, and of those who have been going out for centuries. This is a social change, one of unprecedented scale. Nowhere in the world, has a behavior change programme of this scale ever been attempted. We are learning by doing. We have experience of what went wrong in earlier programmes, and we have tried to rectify it. We also know what was done in neighbouring countries, and we have picked up the best practice and contextualized that to our country. For this, massive capacity building exercise has been taken over the past three years. Community approach that was confined to one or two places in the country pre-Swachh Bharat is the norm today. In remote villages of this country, I have witnessed villagers and natural leaders coming up and demonstrating in their local language, the trigger tools of shame and disgust, such as dipping a hair in shit and mixing it with water. This did not happen overnight or organically or automatically. More than 500 of the 650-odd Collectors of this country were called to Delhi in batches and given exposure to community approach. The direct training of Collectors by Centre does not happen in any government programme, but Swachh Bharat could not have kick-started without it. In each State, a State level workshop was held with all the State and district officials, and workshop on community approach held. In those days, it was just a few facilitators trained in community approach in the country, and a few ‘champion’ Collectors who had practiced this approach. These few people were used to spread the message, to multiply champions. Social media like WhatsApp was used to connect the champions, to constantly expose others to this approach and to keep up the motivation. In order to multiply training agencies, good organisations of repute in States were given orientation, so that they could carry out these trainings at the district and field level. Help of multilateral agencies such as UNICEF and World Bank was taken to sponsor these trainings in the States. Officers like Amit Gupta in Uttar Pradesh (and many more- not taking names) utilized these trainings to bring about a shift of attitudes in the way of working and to equip the implementers with adequate skills. Such a huge capacity building and reorientation programme – that is being continued across many districts as I write this – has been the silent work behind the motivated people working in this programme from Centre to villages.

Thirdly, and most conspicuously, the programme today stands as a foremost priority amongst the development programmes. A Collector runs close to a hundred programmes, and all of them are important. However, sanitation has come to occupy his/her top agenda today. Realising that sanitation requires leadership at the highest level, and also coordination amongst multiple departments, the Collectors were engaged to lead the programme from day 1. The district Collector, being head of the government in the district (or CEOs of Zilla Panchayats, heads of Rural Development) is in a unique position to involve all government departments as well as all sects of the society. Shanmuga, CEO of Harda, Madhya Pradesh, used to say, ‘our stakeholder in Swachh Bharat is every citizen of my district – unless everyone is involved, programme does not succeed’. From school children, to adolescent girls, to self help group women, to natural leaders, to panchayats, to professionals, to health workers to teachers, to opinion makers, to religious leaders to elected representatives – all have been involved in this movement.

Fourthly, a ‘toilet’ is no longer a sanitation symbol. No other programme touches everyone. The Swachh Bharat, with its collective approach and focus on ODF – that necessitates a collective action – ensures that everyone – people of all caste, communities, including the marginalized – have to come together for making their village ODF. There are villages that refused to celebrate Diwali and Eid, till their village became ODF, and then celebrated the two festivals together. ODF achievement is today a social festival that cuts across class, caste and community. Since the community approach does not restrict itself to engagement of only panchayats or opinion makers, but reaches out to the last person, it has led to empowerment of the marginalized groups and champions have emerged from these groups. Women, who would not speak in public, are today leading this revolution in villages, away from glare of mainstream media. A handicapped person in Chhattisgarh decorates his wheel-chair and goes from house to house till his village is ODF. Transgenders join the movement in Madhya Pradesh and Osmanabad. This empowerment, this unleashing of positive potential of villages, installation of pride in them, having participated in this social change is the strength of Swachh Bharat.

टोयलेट तो एक बहाना है

हम को देश बनाना है

A programme of such mind-boggling magnitude is bound to have challenges. Swachh Bharat is aware of those challenges. The first challenge is that we are attacking habits – and habits are hard to die. Different types of innovations are emerging to sustain the changed habit. The villages are devising novel do’s and don’ts to ensure that people do not continue to go out. This sustainability itself is a nine month cycle. The scale of the programme is another challenge. Around 40% villages have declared themselves ODF, 60% remain. Capacity building has to be continued, focus on behavior change maintained and champions created. The rigour of ODF verification has to be maintained. All this is work in progress – wings of aeroplane are being painted while the plane is flying!

This is Swachh Bharat in its entirety. And what was portrayed yesterday?

There are more than six lakh villages in this country. A commentary on Swachh Bharat should comprehend this programme, visit the length and breadth of this country, and bring out the positives and challenges. It is easy to find three villages, and create an impression that no meaningful work has been done in Swachh Bharat.  It is not difficult to extract a ‘no’ from an old person in front of a camera when asked a leading question, ‘aap ko kisi ne swachh bharat ke bare mein bataya hai?’ Reminded of the movie ‘Peepli Live’?  The TV show projected that only 40% of the villages declared ODF have been verified – thereby creating an impression that the rest are not ODF. As explained, the responsibility for declaring a village as ODF lies with the village themselves, since they are supposed to effect that change. After declaration is done, one waits for some time (around three months) and then verification is done, to check sustainability. The process of verification and new declarations goes hand in hand, and is a continuous process. The ODF Verifications are being prioritized, as also the quality of verifications. In addition, third party verifications are being done. The Quality Council of India surveyed 1,40,000 households in May 2017 and found a coverage of around 62.5 % (similar to Government figures) and usage of 91.29%.  Another survey by the National Sample Survey Office in 90,000 households done two years ago found usage figures as high as 95 %. The show however ignored to mention these evaluations, and focused on a two-year old report done by an agency with a small sample size of around 7500. It is clarified that after this agency’s report came out and they mentioned ‘ghost toilets’ (that was mentioned in yesterday’s show as well), the Ministry requested the agency to share this data so that corrections can be made. The agency however, refused to share the data, mentioning ‘confidentiality’. This, compared to Swachh Bharat online MIS, where data of 17 crore households, of each and every village, is in public domain. The agency’s report mentioned ‘less expenditure on IEC’, when Swachh Bharat has long moved beyond conventional IEC to direct engagement of people, much of which is being done in a voluntary mode. By using indicators such as ‘number of visits to a household after a toilet is built’, the agency has disclosed its lack of comprehension of the processes, spirit and soul of the Swachh Bharat, that has long transcended a typical ‘sarkari’ programme and become a movement. My co-panelist from the agency quoted from the Idea Book, authored by me, mentioning that construction should not be the focus’. Wish some new suggestion had come!

Shri Wilson mentioned about the manual scavenging and the plight of cleaning of sewer lines. The Ministry of Urban Development, that looks after Swachh Bharat (Urban) must be seized of the matter, and may comment on the same. (My views above are limited to Swachh Bharat –Rural, with which I have been associated). In rural India, the toilets being promoted are twin-pit toilets, where the faecal matter gets converted on its own into harmless manure after 1-2 years of stoppage of use. The pit can then be emptied by the household owner himself. In order to promote this, and address the ‘yuck’ factor associated with toilet waste, the highest officials of Swachh Bharat in rural areas have entered the toilet pit and dug it themselves. This should be a strong weapon against the tradition of involvement of only certain castes in cleaning of toilets. The awareness on pit-emptying needs to be strengthened further.  Also, under Swachh Bharat, most of the insanitary latrines (around 2.5 lakh so far) – that may lead to manual scavenging –have been converted to sanitary latrines. However, one needs to be constantly watchful and focus specifically on this issue, until this is fully addressed.

As the show was on, the anchor was anxiously directing his team to show visuals of people going to field (for open defecation). This picture is not new to India: unfortunately, Indians for centuries have seen, if not practiced it. It might have helped the TRP, though. A visual of a girl going on fast, until her toilet is built; or of children and women going out at 4 am to prevent people from going out would have created more impact, reflected the ground situation, instilled hope. And might have helped the TRP as well. That would also have been the truth, not hype.

Young women become Saharanpur’s change agents

Saharanpur women

Parul Saini was deeply distressed when she learnt that several young men in her village loitered around sites where women went together in groups, at the break of dawn each morning to relieve themselves, just to spy on them.

When she took this issue to the attention of those women, they jointly decided to work hard and construct their own toilets.  Even if they were unable to put a roof over the toilets, they would build a structure that would give them the privacy they badly needed, the women decided.  With this in mind, Monika, Ritu, Guddi, Onwati and a few other girls joined Parul and made their entire village of Govindpur in the Saharanpur District of Uttar Pradesh open defecation free (ODF).

There are several other young women in the district who like Parul (a graduate) have been working with the district administration in the sanitation campaign that was inspired by the Prime Minister’s speech at the Red Fort in August 2014.   While Parul, Shivani, Rashmiand Minakshi have now become block motivators, Rachna, Nisha, Anuradha, Anjali and Neha continue to work as volunteers with the teams.

Their involvement began soon after a district level Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) workshop conducted in Saharanpur in March 2015.  At that time, as many as 20 villages were identified in the first batch with the motive of developing a holistic perspective towards sanitation and community participation.

Significantly, these villages owing to continuous efforts of these women alongside the district administration were made ODF without having to provide any financial incentives to the villagers.

Saharanpur women2

Rashmi Tank (a post graduate), recalls another unpleasant incident that reinforced the need for toilets.  Two families in her neighbourhood had an unpleasant altercation that resulted in ill-feelings.  It began when a new daughter-in-law of one of the families happened to defecation in the farm belonging to the other family.   “I realised how important the sanitation campaign was to guarantee safety and dignity of all women,” Rashmi said.

“Each of us was asked to ensure that toilets were constructed in our respective villages first and thereafter working in other villages of the block,” added Shivani Saini.  Naturally, the success of the initiative depended on usage of toilets.

All these women who began as volunteers are now employees with the responsibility of motivating communities in their block using IEC and door to door inter-personal communication.  Significantly, all toilets were built by families themselves without any government incentive

As far as construction was concerned, the district administration held district and block level meetings at which natural leaders, pradhans and members of PRIs were oriented about the advantages of twin pit toilet technology.  When these leaders went out into the field, they commissioned masons who were conversant with the required technology.

Other activities carried out by the district include various training programmes, exposure visits, baalmanch (children’s platform for discussing sanitation), kishoriswasthya (health of adolescent girls), school sanitation activities, inclusion of SHGs in the movement, among others.  To ensure that toilets are used consistently, Nigrani Samitis have been formed that keep vigil.

Currently Saharanpur has a total of 419 volunteers who are working alongside the district administration in the SBM campaign of which 200 are girls. The target for making the entire district ODF is 2nd October, 2018.

The District Panchayati Raj Officer, Satish Kumar is happy with the progress of the sanitation campaign and the enthusiasm shown by the motivated young women.  “We are sure to achieve an ODF district way before our deadline if we have such passionate people working with us,” he said.

(With inputs from ZSBP – Saharanpur)