Organisation Name: Office of District Magistrate, Collectorate,
Project: Promoting People’s Movements Through “Jan Bhagidari” SBM (Gramin)
Kishanganj is a district in Bihar, situated towards the eastern upper end of the state. The district has a population of 16.90 Lakhs. There are 1769 wards, 703 villages, 126 Gram Panchayats and 7 Blocks. The state shares an international border with Nepal.
The primary problem arises out of an intense influx of people across the border. The geographical location of the district and Bihar’s shared border with West Bengal and Nepal creates demographic changes as people move into the state. The shifting population has made it difficult to properly roll out campaigns like the total sanitation project. The unique geographical setting led to the rise of a dialect called ‘Soorjapuri’. This has created communication challenges which affects the efficiency of different programmes and campaigns. Raising awareness about important issues as well as the administration’s schemes is difficult because of these gaps.
Another major concern affecting the region is that it is flood-prone as it experiences very heavy rainfall every year. This has created tensions and vulnerabilities in the local population as the floods have severely damaged and washed away constructed houses. The locals have been reluctant to invest in facilities like toilets for fear of the RCC roofs being damaged in cyclones. The district is in Seismic Zone V.
The overarching solution to the aforementioned problems has been to go back to the drawing board and reverse-engineer scheme implementation plans to account for the local context. The project was adapted to the local setting and IEC and IPC campaigns were introduced in the local language to expand the reach of the awareness building campaign.
A capacity building training programme was initiated for the programme team to help educate them about the different challenges from the field. These experiences and insights from the field were monitored and assessed so that the problems could be analysed and plugged. Working in a resistant/ challenging environment can be demoralising for any campaign team so an effort was made to incentivise productive, enthusiastic behaviours for both project workers and beneficiaries.
Ward and Panchayat-level awareness campaigns were organised to educate people about the importance of the sanitation drive. The goal was to ensure people undertake toilet construction and complete within a designated time period. The team liaised with local construction materials vendors and brick manufacturers to arrange bulk supplies to help scheme beneficiaries get started on construction projects.
The efforts are not limited to supporting just the beneficiaries and the scheme workers. Capacity building and training programmes have also been organised for the masons and labourers to be involved in the construction projects. This has been done through RSETTI and the Labour superintendent to guarantee there is no shortage in the workforce needed for toilet construction. To fortify constructions in seismic zones, the authorities have allowed the use of GI/ GS sheets.
The primary result of all these efforts has been tremendous social change in terms of individual and community attitudes towards the importance of the total sanitation programme. The goal is not about attaining a bare minimum number of toilets but to achieve proper ‘Open Defecation Free’ status in the villages and to promote better health and hygiene standards throughout. There has been a noticeable attitudinal shift, from subsidy-driven advocacy to standardisation of high-quality living. Supplementary goals include decreased child mortality and morbidity rates. On 14th January 2019, Kishanganj was awarded ODF status.
The local population has developed a keen appreciation for properly-constructed toilet facilities and now understand that they are critical to individual and community health and wellbeing. A sense of economic security, social prestige, shared responsibility and personal development has been tied into the project. A fully walled-and-roofed toilet is seen as an important milestone towards achieving social, personal and family growth. The Lohiya Swachh Bihar Abhiyaan looks at long-term, sustained efforts beyond the initial construction of the toilet facilities.
The local population is essentially labour-class, with large joint families. Social challenges include widespread illiteracy and a lack of awareness about livelihood essentials and government schemes to help achieve them. Largescale migration to the metros and a paucity of trained masons has created a society in which developmental projects are difficult to implement. The topography and meteorological factors also do little to guarantee that constructions will lasy long enough to justify the material investment. These factors have made the local population reluctant about undertaking development projects.
Folk art activities have been used effectivity to help people relate better with the campaign goals and activities. Audio-Visual IEC programmes and Nukkad Nataks in the local dialect have helped reach a greater audience than previous awareness campaigns. Grassroots communication has been ramped up with 364 trained Swachhagrahis distributing informational pamphlets. SHGs have been instrumental in the door-to-door campaigns organised to sensitise the public about the ODF campaigns.
People are being encouraged to complete construction in a defined time period. The projects are monitored in a district control room with a surveillance official tracking efforts at the Panchayat level. Telephone calls between beneficiaries and the government functionary help keep all stakeholders looped into the process. Daily communication means daily encouragement and it also helps solve problems in real-time so that people do not get demotivated. Daily reviews are undertaken to monitor progress. WhatsApp groups help streamline communication between different levels of stakeholders. Random inspections of the work being done help keep projects in motion. An effort has been made to include all block and GP-level functionaries relevant to the scheme; this includes revenue officers, PDS dealers and PRI functionaries. The Awaas app is used for progress monitoring. Every arm of the pertinent administrative machinery has been instructed to keep a track of the projects. Beneficiaries are informed of the stipulated amount in their accounts and are directed to inform the relevant authorities in case there is any problem with the same.
The power of ICT and digital technology in monitoring fieldwork can be used across niches and states. Community participation can be improved by adapting to the cultural context.
The project is an excellent example of inducing positive behaviours and social change to create local ownership of finding solutions to local problems.
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