Bringing philanthropy and the community together in Kutch

Seetha Gopalakrishnan
Friday, February 27, 2015 - 10:24

Article Courtesy: Samerth Trust

India ranks first in open defecation compared statistics world over. The UNICEF and WHO’s latest reports state that 82% of the billion people practicing open defecation in the world live in just 10 countries. India continues to be the leader here with the highest number of people - 600 million which is almost 60% of the total population - practicing open defecation.

The Government of India has proposed to free India from open defecation by October 2019 through Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) but the task is not easy as 131 million households (as per 2011Census) need toilets/latrines.

In Gujarat state alone 31.31 lakh such sanitation units are required and in arid district Kutch 102,758 households are yet to have units. Further, the sanitation needs to be promoted on the principles of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). The mammoth task cannot be achieved by government alone and there is need of civil society, agencies, corporate, PSUs, etc. to work together to make India clean by 2019.

The Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) (2012) has been restructured as Swacch Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G) by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation from October 2, 2014 and has introduced various funding patterns and provisions for construction of toilets in rural India.

Samerth’s work in Kutch, Gujarat

Given the background, an initiative taken up by Samerth Charitable Trust (Samerth) to construct sanitation units in Nakhatrana block of Kutch district is a true model of Community led total sanitation (CLTS).

A NRI family from the USA hailing from Nakhatarana, the Popats, wanted to make the taluk in which they were born free from open defecation.

Samerth was approached to work on the matter and the couple promised to fund for the construction material, provided the people of the village contributed in labour. The people at Samerth took up the challenge to provide basic sanitation facilities to the poorest and most marginalized section in the tegion, who probably were first generation toilet users. 

After consultation with WASMO, DRDA and TDO offices, a spot survey of the villages was conducted to get acquainted with the people and their issues. Villages were identified and a series of meetings with the community ensued to draft the best possible approaches. Keeping in view the gender dimensions of the issue, separate meetings were held with women to understand their special needs. These meetings brought forward many issues faced by women, especially lack of privacy for bathing, washing clothes, health / hygiene and safety issues which called for urgent requirement to construct bathrooms also besides latrines.

Getting the community together

After testing the success in a couple of villages, Samerth specifically adopted the following approach to work on sanitation program:

Awareness and capacity building: Two to three village awareness and capacity building meetings with communities in presence of Sarpanch and GP level Mahatma Gandhi Grameen Water and Sanitation Samiti (Committee) were held. Here, the need for and importance of sanitation program, present sanitation system, gaps, government policies, water supply and drainage system/situation, in the village, role of Gram Panchayat and selection criteria of beneficiaries and identification of potential beneficiaries were discussed with the villagers.

Village level groups: Groups were formed at the village level and leaders, with equal participation of women, were identified. The group had to work with the Samerth team to monitor construction, follow up with Gram Pandchayat, vendors of material supply, and help with obtaining government subsidy for the beneficiaries that is now available under the SBM-G. They were also responsible for recording proceedings of meetings, signed by all present.

From the people, to the people: Village level community workers were involved in finalizing the list of beneficiaries for the programme and sharing relevant information with the community members. They were also involved in encouraging people to construct the bathrooms for the privacy of women. They were in charge of appealing to people to come forward and contribute their time and labour for constructing toilets.

Construction of Individual household toilets in the village

Door to door survey was conducted to collect the proof of residence, ensure water availability, deciding construction place and awareness on use of toilets with hand wash facilities and cleaning material. The list of beneficiaries was verified by the Sarpanch and the same was forwarded to the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) at Nakhatrana.

Local vendors were identified to carry out construction and fitting. Encouraged by the efforts of Mr. Popat and Samerth, the vendors chipped in with their bit by providing quality raw materials on time with minimum profit.

Raw material supply and construction was monitored by the local Samerth team along with the local leaders. Once the soak pits were in place, the individual drain lines were connected to the village main drainage pipe line laid out by the Gram Panchayat with the help of WASMO which opens far off from the village. Running water was supplied to the bathrooms and latrines as well.  

The cost of each unit amounts to Rs. 9, 000 including material and labour costs. Samerth provided material of Rs. 7600 fixed for every identified individual household and the family members contributed their voluntary labour to the tune of Rs. 4000 - 4500.

Once the construction was complete, SAMERTH facilitated the preparation of applications by individual beneficiary households to seek a subsidy from Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, This was done through approval and forwarding by local Gram Panchayat where Sarpanch and Talathi discuss the applications with members of water and sanitation committee and give their approval. Talathi then forwards the application to TDO office for payment.

Until now 162 households comprising 9 APL and 153 BPL households have received subsidy from state government to the tune of Rs. 7,21,800 which has given further encouragement to other families to go for toilets and seek government subsidy.

Creating sustainable synergy

The above mentioned process along with people’s participation contributed to Samerth’s sanitation success. No specific model or structure was promoted, instead, local socio-economic and geo-ecological conditions along with the community’s suggestions led to the choice of the structure.

Out of the total requirement of 11,000 rural toilets in rural Nakhatrana block, Samerth achieved about 13% target by constructing 1547, covering   8.5 % households and 7% population. This is probably one of the few programs after Sulabh Shouchalyas across India and Grama Vikas in Orissa operating working at this scale for the benefit of rural households.

Way forward

All those who want to make the campaign of ‘Clean India’ a great success can learn a thing or two from Samerth’s experience.

  • There is need to conduct a proper survey of existing toilets, its redesign, repairs and make the campaign in to a total rural sanitation program
  • Households without sanitation facilities need to be identified by organizing blocks into cluster and interventions should be planned accordingly
  • The condition of ‘first construct the toilet and then access subsidy’ need to be made flexible.
  • Government need to be flexible in giving permissions and grants to local people. With its strong administration right up to village level in the form of Gram Pachayat, Talathi, Gram Sevak, Health Workers, Anganwadi Sevikas etc., the government can give advances to people for commencing construction. The advance system or material giving can enhance the confidence of people to construct the unit.
  • Long delays in transferring subsidies must be avoided. This will motivate other villagers to opt for sanitation units and seek benefits of subsidies.
  • Entire program planning must be deputed to gram Panchayats and appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms need to be put in place accordingly.
  • Different models need to be developed taking into the consideration the local social and geo-environmental conditions.
  • Strong IEC materials for awareness generation in the form of audio-video clips and posters are crucial for igniting interest.
  • Six monthly reviews of SBA – G should be made mandatory and modifications, if required, in policy and in monitoring system should be made.
  • Water supply must be ensured before introduction of the sanitation program. People in rural areas prefer sanitation systems that use water instead of technologies that manage without it. 
  • CSR funds available with Corporate houses needs to be tapped to the fullest to motivate them to invest in programs that support sustainable sanitation across the country.

Most importantly, to make the SBM – G successful there is need to create a separate mechanism to implement the program. At present, the concerned departments at the district and block level are severely understaffed which hinders planning and implementation. With separate mechanism in place, the government will be greatly benefitted in terms of providing advance subsidies and speedy implementation of the program.