Open defecation was such a deeply ingrained habit in the Agar Malwa district that anyone walking through the villages could accidentally step over faeces.
However, persistent behavioural reorientation and the addition of 70,000 toilets made the district of Madhya Pradesh Open Defecation-Free (ODF) on the 30th of May, 2017.
The 1st of April, 2015 saw the formation of the district Panchayat of Agar Malwa. The small team had to perform the herculean task of building a large number of toilets and creating awareness on hygiene and sanitation. The challenge? Villagers had been resistant to the idea of building toilets and using them.
Drop by Drop
As a first step, workshops on Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) were organised at Shajapur to motivate the district and the block level officers. Target-based work plans were adopted, and 191 masons were trained on the toilet construction system. Realising the potential of CLTS, a training workshop was conducted at the Model School over a period of 5 days.
The Orientation Programme
The Orientation Programme brought people from all walks of life under one roof. The trainees included government officials, secretaries, social workers and journalists, besides others. The orientation was conducted by Mr Manu Singh from the Feedback Foundation.
The wheel on ‘swachhta’ kept rolling through various initiatives. Nigrani Samitis or monitoring groups like Janaki Sena, Luv-Kush Sena, and Nayak Sena were formed. Night meetings (Ratri Chaupaal), Bharat Mata Chunar Yatras, and Mashaal Yatras were organised in the villages, all with the motive of ushering in an ODF district.
The Path To Cleanliness
The initiative even managed to connect religious sentiments with the idea of cleanliness, thereby urging people to take the reins of hygiene in their hands. For instance, plants with religious values such as tulsi and peepal were planted to prevent villagers from open defecation. The Regional Rural Development Training Centre in Ujjain also contributed towards the efforts. To ensure the program didn’t slow down in momentum, meetings were held on a daily basis.
Joining Hands For Hygiene
Movies about sanitation were screened under the Swachhta Rath campaign to drive home the message of hygiene and cleanliness. As the Sondhiya community was the most resistant to the concept of toilets, a dedicated Sondhiya Sammelan was conducted. This was followed by a 7-day Halla Bol programme to educate the people. Children who were a part of monitoring teams (Nigrani Samiti) were rewarded with whistles, caps, sports kits, and T-shirts. Village level teams were also maintained under Swachhagrahis.
A Clever Tactic
As a pressure tactic, the Sarpanch of Rampur Bhundwas village set up an overhead water supply tank on his rooftop. It had separate valves for different localities. Anyone who resisted toilet construction would have to encounter water supply interruption. The result? In only a few weeks, the Rampur Bhundwas village became ODF.
Through perseverance, Agar Malwa finally gained ODF status, becoming exemplary for its efforts. Through constant motivation, villagers still continue their quest for a Swachh Bharat.