What do you do if no incentive works and people simply refuse to build toilets? This was the dilemma facing Sarpanch, Katta Muneswara Rao of Kappaldoddi village in Andhra Pradesh in 2015. 52- year old Sarpanch Rao himself embraced the cause of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan zealously. Not even the disappointment of the villagers not sharing his passion or vision for improved sanitary practices, could stall him. It probably just slowed him down a bit and helped him think up of innovative ideas to turn sceptics into advocates for the cause. Kappaldoddi village in Andhra Pradesh’s Gudura mandal in Krishna district has just 832 households with a population of about 4000. Despite being small in size, the sanitation coverage was mere 45% in 2015, which meant that more than half the people of the village were defecating in the open. The bigger issue was that the village’s sanitation coverage was below the state’s average of 56%, which in itself is one of the lowest in South India.
Given the resistance that Sarpanch Rao was facing from the villagers, who simply refused to build toilets, he decided to take two-pronged approach – spread awareness and create a situation forcing people to give up the age old malpractice of open defecation. Mr Rao held discussions with the district administration and decided to appoint two Swachhta Doots (cleanliness ambassadors) in the village who would go to all the individual households without toilets and explain in detail the several aspects of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, including how the government would disburse money to those who built toilets.
The village Sarpanch was highly enthusiastic about the initiative and himself nominated two Swachhta Doots for spreading awareness. While the sanitation scenario was not dismal in the village, the Sarpanch wanted the village to become ODF before the end of the year and hence continuously discussed with us on how further sanitation coverage could be achieved for the village, said Gandham Chandrudu, Joint Collector, Krishna District.
Sarpanch realised that toilets were a necessity for many in the village, but due to a majority of the population becoming habituated to defecating in the open, the importance of toilets was not yet realised by the local population. As Swachhta doots and district officials conducted their routine awareness campaigns across the village, the Sarpanch decided to stop cleaning the regular defecating areas around the village. A few days late, several villagers landed up at the Sarpanch office and demanded to know why the defecation spots were not being cleaned. The Sarpanch took this opportunity to address the people of the village on how important toilets were and how sanitation eventually leads to overall improvement of health. Though this led to only 10 residents coming forward to build toilets, the Sarpanch saw this as an opportunity and decided to go ahead and provide aid in the construction of individual household latrines (IHHLs) in these 10 houses.
When the villagers who built toilets received their entitled amount under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, many in the village who had so far negated the motive of the Abhiyan and its workings started to convert and approach the Sarpanch and the district administration for assistance to build toilets. By October 2016, 500 IHHLs were built. So what started as a lone venture of the Sarpanch, with the villagers from Kappaldoddi coming together for a common cause – build toilets to end open defecation.
The families which could not pay for building toilets were provided loans from self-help groups (SHGs), which were paid back once the families received funds under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Apart from the villagers coming together to build the toilets, what was more heartening to see was that even the lack of money in some cases did not deter the Sarpanch from continuing the toilet building exercise. The coming together of SHGs in the village to disburse money to villagers for toilet construction was a true moment of success for the campaign, said Mr. Chandrudu.
As the movement to build toilets in every household gained momentum no hurdle seemed insurmountable. So when 20 families in the village came forward to highlight a logistical issue that their houses didn’t have any space to accommodate toilets, a solution was worked out. A toilet complex just for these 20 families. A land belonging to the gram panchayat was identified for the purpose and the district’s Deputy Engineer and Assistant Engineer constructed a sanitary complex with 20 independent toilets, within a month. In the complex, each toilet has been allotted to a household with a particular number. The lock and key of the toilet was given to the owner of the house, thereby signifying ownership of the toilet. A hand pump was also dug in front of the sanitary complex, to ensure that there was no dearth of water supply for those who used the toilets in the sanitary complex.
Kappaldoddi is an example in how various techniques can be utilised to make rural sanitation a successful reality. Financial help from SHGs and building of a sanitary complex due to lack of individual household space are some of the steps that could be replicated across the country in its fulfillment of the Swachh Bharat Mission, said J. Shankar Narayanan, Head of Community Initiatives at Akshara Rural Development Society.
Kappaldoddi achieved its ODF status in December 2016, but has not rested with the tag. The village is continuously trying to better its sanitation scenario by improving the village’s waste disposal techniques and drainage systems to ensure that total sanitation in the village is a reality. The district administration has also been instrumental in distributing buckets, mugs and cleaning equipment to empower the local population with all the necessary tools required to keep the sanitation vehicle up and running.
Jan Andolan or people’s movement is how Prime Minister Narendra Modi describes the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and Kappaldoddi’s Swachh journey is a perfect example of what people power can achieve.