Community leads Hamirpur and Kangra towards total sanitation

Thursday, December 18, 2014 - 10:30


Despite the launch of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 2002, Hamirpur district in Himachal Pradesh remained almost cut off from the toilet frenzy until 2006-07. Nearly 56% of households had no individual toilets when the campaign was initially launched. Five years into the campaign, less than 1% of the set target was achieved.

At a time when district officials were struggling to get people interested in building toilets, the training programmes on Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) organized by the state government proved to be the only saving grace. Hamirpur was one of the first districts in the state to organize a training programme on CLTS.

For the community; from the community

CLTS places the community at the centre and provides them with the opportunity to assess their needs and devise the most appropriate method to deal with the problem of open defecation.

Hamirpur’s District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) helped institutionalize a ‘community-owned, community-led’ campaign which tapped the potentials of motivated Gram Pradhans and promising Block Development Officers. Sub-divisional Officers were made TSC nodal officers and block level sanitation committees were set up headed by the Panchayat Samiti Pradhans.

School teachers and voluntary health workers helped spread the word about benefits of healthy sanitation practices and everyday hygiene. Street plays were the preferred medium to transmit lessons learnt at the training programmes. Apart from mobilizing communities as a whole, door to door as well as personal meetings were also arranged on a regular basis.

No fixed models were suggested; people were free to install the pit toilets or the ones with the septic tanks based on their means and needs. Most people opted for the single pit toilets and these cost them anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 depending on the allied amenities and superstructures.

Kangra district: ODF in three years

Similar to Hamirpur, Kangra’s TSC turnaround happened in 2008. A project officer equipped with some basic knowledge about CLTS took over the DRDA leading to an altered approach towards TSC and its targets.

TSC was given priority both at the district as well as the block level. Project officers and field staff were regularly deputed on field visits to spread the word about safe sanitation. District and block level sanitation committees were put in place to aid in awareness generation, hand holding assistance and constant monitoring of progress. Within 3 years, all of Kangra’s 760 Gram Panchayats were open defecation free.

Drivers of change: Shame and disgust

The IEC campaigns in both the districts focussed on how shameful and disgusting the practice of defecating in the open is. People were, practically, shamed into constructing toilets to safeguards their wives and daughters. Negative reinforcements such as imposing fines for defecating in the open were also suggested and introduced in some areas. Shame and disgust, in combination with penal reinforcements drove the seriousness of the issue home and elected leaders of the Panchayats and related bodies were able to understand the gravity of the issue.

The ‘nirmal’ tag was granted only after a peer review of the Panchayat where members from another gram Panchayat visit the villages and certify them to be open defecation free. Incentives set aside for constructing toilets were released only after the construction was complete in the entire village and after veifying that they were being used.

Hamirpur’s experience clearly proved that community participation is crucial for the successful implementation of the programme. Here, demand creation preceded construction of toilets and as a result, most of them remained functional even after the toilet constructing frenzy faded.

Once considered a poor performer when it came to sanitation, Hamirpur was able to turn everything around with the help of motivated project staff and an enlightened community.

All this resulted in Hamirpur being Himachal’s first ODF district in 2009-10. The district bagged almost half of the Nirmal Gram Puraskars (NGP) awarded to Panchayats in the state in 2010 and by 2012 Hamirpur was one of the top ten districts in the country to have the maximum number of NGPs in its kitty.