Effective public service delivery through innovative governance knowledge exchange
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Innovatively implementing the Total Sanitation Campaign
Officials in Satara use innovative ideas like panchayat picture boards exposing non-conformists, withholding certificates and PDS supplies of families without proper toilets, and school campaigns in their struggle against open defecation.

 Bulletin boards on the sleepy walls of village panchayat offices, rarely greeted with a glance, have started attracting a loyal audience in parts of Satara district over the last three years. That's because boring pamphlets and notices have been plucked out to make way for a daily dose of toilet humour with unsavoury photographs of half-naked rich sugarcane farmers, businessmen and other villagers easing themselves in the open.

    The panchayat bulletin boards, one of the many innovative and potent weapons employed in the struggle for freedom from open defection under the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), brought so much embarrassment to the exposed that they almost immediately sanctioned a home toilet. “Our work was to generate demand, create willpower to get home toilets built after shattering myths about toilets being an unnecessary luxury,” says Tukaram Garale, deputy CEO (Village Panchayat) who oversees the implementation of the center-run TSC in Satara under the banner of Sampoorna Swacchata Abhiyan. “We used all the methods we could imagine,” he says.

    That’s evident from the fact that apart from the usual awareness workshops for selfhelp groups and community documentary film screenings to spread the word about the financial and health benefits of home toilets, TSC officials came up with a range of ideas to take the pants off stubborn nonconformists. One of them was the Good Morning campaign which had TSC moles planting themselves in areas where people usually went to relieve themselves at the crack of dawn. “From 5am, we would start detaining those found defecating in the open,” says Hrishkesh Shilwant, a TSC official from the Gram Panchayat department. The arrests were made under Sections 115 and 117 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951, that makes it illegal to ‘ease oneself in public’ and imposes a fine up to Rs 100. “We collected almost Rs 8 lakh over three years,” he says.

    In some villages like Targaon, school bands were made to play in front of homes that didn't have toilets and in others, schoolchildren resorted to Gandhigiri and presented flowers to people found offloading in the open. Schoolchildren, the footsoldiers of the Swachha Dhoot campaign and trusted change agents, were even assigned five homes each. “Their job was to make adults realise how important toilets are,” says Shilwant.

    Some gram panchayats in Karad block even passed resolutions to withhold documents and certificates from families which did not construct loos. For those who still didn't budge, the panchayats decided to plug the supply of ration from PDS shops. “The pressure worked well,” Shilwant says. “But then there were those who used to defecate in the open despite having a toilet. Our teams would use flashlights to expose them and start using whistles to shame them,” he says.

    The gram panchayats even rewarded those who convinced others to build a toilet by paying them Rs 50 as incentive for each person converted. “It wasn’t about financial difficulties. People in the village had televisions and motorcycles but no toilets,’’ says Garale. “We trained masons and convinced people to construct soak-pit toilets that require an investment of only a few thousands and don’t need much water or space.”

    Women, says Garale, played a major role in the campaign. While in some villages, girls decided to demand toilets on Raksha Bandhan, the women’s panchayats in Jaoli and Mahableshwar blocks resolved to collectively reject marriage proposals from homes that didn't have toilets. But the most successful campaign, claims Shilwant, has been the rath yatra that had officials tour the entire district over 20 days on a chariot. “`You know how L K Advani had done, just like that,” chips in another TSC official Ganesh Chauhan.

    Yusuf Kabir, wash officer from UNICEF India, says that Maharashtra is a pioneer state in implementing the TSC based on innovative Information Education and Communication models, and Satara is the one of the leading districts on that front. The efforts have culminated in 1,331 Satara villages becoming free from open defection and being awarded the Nirmal Gram Puraskar by the central ministry of rural development.

Source: Times of India