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Inching Towards Open Defecation Free Status, Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram Shifts Its Focus To ODF Sustainability

To ensure that people don’t slip back to open defecation practices, the district has opted for Swachh Ballot, where people casted their vote to identify defaulters who continue to defecate in the open despite toilets at home

  • People from 100 gram panchayats participated in the Swachh Ballot
  • Through votes, the voters named the people who still defecate in the open
  • Officials are motivating defectors to stop open defecation and use toilets

New Delhi: From dismal sanitation coverage of mere 25 percent in 2016-17 to close to 100 percent (99.91 percent) today, Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram district’s achievement is nothing short of a Swachh revolution. The coastal district revved up its sanitation status by launching a number of initiatives, including “10,000 individual household toilets in 100 hours” campaign in May 2017 and setting up District Swachh Bharat Monitoring Cell to plan the efficient implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission, along with many other mission-mode swachh programmes. Now after constructing over 4 lakh (4,26,572) toilets since the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014, the district, which is inching towards the open defecation free status, has shifted its emphasis towards ODF sustainability. To ensure that people don’t slip back to unsafe open defecation practices, the district has opted for Swachh Ballot – where people casted their vote to identify defaulters who continue to defecate in the open regardless of availability of a toilet at home.

Also Read: Vizianagaram District Collector Sends Letters To Students To Make Them Ambassadors Of Swachh Cause

This innovative idea of voting against those who defecate in open (Swachh Ballot) came from the Vizianagaram’s District Collector Vivek Yadav who believes that the community members view ODF status of a village as a matter of personal pride, and they would be ready to vote out those who do not use their toilets.

Swachh Ballot was a one day event, conducted on March 23 in over 100 gram panchayats of four ODF Mandals (Bhogapuram, Cheepurupally, Denkada, and Bondapally) to identify the individuals, who defecate in the open.

Talking about the purpose of the activity, the district collector Vivek Yadav said, “Power to vote creates a community level scrutiny for the defectors, thus enabling them towards the usage of individual household toilets. The names, of people still defecating in the open, which were dropped in the ballot box, are being verified and the vigilance committee is ensuring to motivate them to use toilets and put an end to the age-old practice of open defecation.”

How Swachh Ballot was executed

In an effort to inform the villagers about the voting activity so that they participate in huge numbers and also understand what they have to vote for, the district officials used ‘dandoras’ (drums), while the Swachhagrahis (ambassadors of the Clean India mission) and village level officials went door to door to interact with the villagers to explain to them the motive behind the voting – ODF sustainability.

As part of this voting exercise, individuals had to write details of the defector(s) on the ballot cards provided to them and drop the same in the ballot box. To prevent any kind of fraudulent practice while voting, the cards provided were stamped with Swachh Vijayam logo.

“The voting was conducted between 9.00 AM and 5.00 PM on polling day and all gram panchayats saw a good turnout of people to cast their votes. The counting of votes was done on the same day and a list was prepared in all gram panchayats with the names of defectors,” said the district official.

“This list was put up on a public notice board as well as handed over to the vigilance committees (panchayat secretary, swachhagrahi, anganwadi teachers and field assistants) of individual villages,” the official further added.

Based on the list of defectors, the vigilance committees are now personally visiting these individuals/households to motivate them to use their toilets, since behavioural change is one of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s core objectives.

Understanding that behavioural change is what can prompt people to use toilets on a regular basis, the District Collector is also writing to these defectors in person to motivate them to use the individual household toilets and lead a healthy life.

Also Read: Two Days, Two Workshops: How Swachhagrahis Met And Discussed The Importance Of ODF Sustainability And Behavioural Change

To ensure the sustainability of open defecation free (ODF) status of the gram panchayats, the district administration is also thinking of imposing fines on those who violate ODF rules under the Andhra Pradesh Gram Panchayat Act. Furthermore, ODF Sustainability workshops are also being held where Swachhh Bharat Mission workers interact with district officials on how to ensure that open defecation does not relapse in a village that has already attained the ODF status.

“Mere construction of toilets is not our motive – behavioral change along with ensuring that individuals use toilets is our main purpose. All the officials from gram panchayats which have attained ODF tag attended these workshops to discuss challenges, constraints ahead to ensure ODF sustainability,” said the district collector.

Vizianagaram has constructed 4,26,572 toilets and needs just 376 more toilets to become open defecation free and then the work will start towards guarding this ODF status.

Also Read: A Two-Day Collectors’ Conference Sees Discussions On ODF Verification And Sustainability Guidelines

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