With the formation of a 140 km-long human chain on 2nd February, 2018, possibly the longest in the world, the district of Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh is set to feature in the Limca Book of Records – a reference book which showcases India’s Incredibles, chronicling their achievements across different fields. This feat was intended to spread the message of Swachh Bharat across the country.
Objectives of the campaign
With the aim of achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status by 31st March, 2018, the human chain mobilized communities from across the district in large numbers to join hands and pledge to ensure proper sanitation and hygiene in homes and surroundings and stop the practice of open defecation for good health and well being of all people.
It was a part of the district’s series of campaigns for behaviour change. the human chain involved new converts or people who had recently done away with the practice of open defecation; and motivated them to pledge to inspire others to get rid of the age-old habit.
The 2nd largest district in Uttar Pradesh, Sonbhadra is the only district in the country which borders four states namely Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Over the last couple of years, the district has seen massive progress in the number of households with toilets, with coverage rising from less than 30% to over 55%, in a little more than 3 years. Close to a lakh toilets were built during that period.
However, the district authorities felt the need to accelerate the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign so that the dream of an ODF country would materialize within the stipulated date of 2nd October, 2019.
The human chain
A staggering three lakh people from gram panchayats situated across the selected routes participated in the formation of a 140-km long human chain. The event went a long way to spread awareness about sanitation, not just in the state, but also across the entire nation. It was an ambitious attempt to break the record currently held by Nadia District of West Bengal, which achieved a similar feat on 21st Feb, 2015. This initiative, though not the first of its kind, was much larger in its extent, and hence, the effects of it are expected to remain in the memory of people across the district and the country for a long time.
The District Magistrate of Sonbhadra, along with all the other departments, of the district consider this as the biggest and most effective of all mobilization activities to have ever been conducted in the state, involving women, men, children, youth and elderly from all sections of the society.
Dharamshala Chowk in the heart of the Robertsganj block was chosen as the major intersection point for the human chain that started from Khaliyari in Nagwa block, winding through Dharamshala Chowk in Robertsgang; then onto Hindwari and Karma in Ghorawal block before ending in Chopan block.
The entire route of 140 km in length was divided into 3 Super Zones, which were headed by Additional district magistrate rank officers. Going further, these Super Zones were further segregated into 13 Zones, 26 sectors and over 130 booths, the supervision of which was carried out under the guidance of Zonal or Class I officers of the district, who were placed at intervals of every 10 kms.
Further, for effective management and smoother functioning of the event, Sector officers were deployed at intervals of every 5 km along the way, and they supervised the Booth Officers who were placed after every km. Furthermore, sub-booth officers were deployed under the Booth Officers at every 100 metre stretch, so that every individual contributing towards forming the human chain was under the scanner of the district authorities.
Markings were clearly shown on the roads with the help of flags and hoardings at specific landmarks.
Hence, over 2500 officials and staff, along with school headmasters and teachers, Anganwadi and ASHA workers, the village pradhans and secretaries and other officials and staff of various departments were trained to look after the management of the entire event.
People were provided drinking water facilities through Nagar Palikas/Gram Panchayats, while all the district/block/village level officers and staff provided assistance at every step for the smooth functioning of this historic event.
Children – middle and high school students and women across the district participated in the event in huge numbers. In the run up to the event, proper guidelines for their management and training were provided to school authorities, village pradhans, kotedars and anganwadi heads by the district officials, through regular meetings both at the block and villages.
Various mock drills and meetings were conducted at different points in the district, to analyze the kind of difficulties that might arise in the functioning of the event, and details were communicated across the district, so that the management authorities would anticipate the same, and act accordingly.
Over 100 buses were arranged to transport people from distant blocks to the event venue and back to their respective villages. An additional 26 buses were kept available every 5 kms for last minute movements and as safety points.
The Minister of the Panchayati Raj Department, Uttar Pradesh also participated in the event, inspiring people to join campaign.
Banners and Posters for the promotion of the event and for developing consciousness towards sanitation and health were put up at regular intervals, and people were encouraged to call out slogans against open defecation and other ill-practices of sanitation. Over 3 lakh paper-caps were distributed to the participants for uniformity towards a common cause.
The Traffic Police Department ensured proper management of traffic while officials from the Health and Education Department were deployed for any kind of emergencies that might arise during the course of the campaign. Further, as per the directions of the District Magistrate and the Traffic Police Department, the highways and roads from Varanasi to Shaktinagar, Dudhi to Lumbani and Khaliyari to Ghorawal remained closed from 8 am to 2 pm, to ensure safety of people who gathered along the roads. Even the district officials were directed to use only motorbikes for conveyance and communication along the route.
As many as 26 ambulances were deployed at every 5 km stretch, and all booth and sub-booth officials were provided with first-aid kids for any medical emergencies that arose.
After forming the human chain, over 3 lakh people from across the district, took an oath to work towards an ODF district by the stipulated date, under the direction of the District Magistrate and other concerned officials.
In addition, following a media briefing by the District Magistrate earlier, media persons were present at the event, giving fair coverage in the press as well as on air.
The event was recorded through high resolution (HD-4K) and drone cameras, and the Panchayati Raj Department provided necessary assistance for the entire coverage of the event. To and fro travel from New Delhi-Varanasi-Sonbhadra and accommodation arrangements were made for the officials from the Limca Book of World Records, even as the district officials provided full cooperation with the officials during the entire event.
The officials and people of the district hope that their event will motivate the entire country to work for the cause of sanitation, health and a clean tomorrow.
(Inputs from ZSBP-Sonbhadra)