Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada, August 18: A baseline survey conducted during the year 2012 reflected that there are only 12226 households having latrines in entire Rayagada district out of 199383 families in toto which means 187157 families were defecating in open. Year 2013-14 was the year of planning for massive sanitation programme. At the end of financial year 2016-17 and within three financial years, the office of District Water and Sanitation Mission(DWSM) could construct 81177 latrines thereby covering 43% of those households defecating in open. “It is certainly certainly a giant leap considering the awareness level of tribal & dalit people who constitute around 70% of Rayagda district and the difficult terrain”, said Sri Rabindra Patakhandal, a prominent RTI activist of the district.
Take the case in Chandrapur block, which is considered to be the most interior. In the year 2012, only three families possessed latrines; but now 2374 more families proudly possess latrines: an increase of 79233% !!! The highest number of latrines constructed in Kashipur and Rayagada blocks, ie, 16745 and 13822 respectively. One of the panchayats of Rayagada block named Matikana has been totally covered under Swachh Bharat Mission(Gramin)-SBM-G. Likewise in Kashipur block 48 villages are totally covered under SMM(G), which is the highest in Rayagada district. This was possible due to the enthusiasm and commitment of Er.T B Sankaran, Assitant Executive Engineer, who was in charge of these two blocks. The least constructed block was Gudari due to paucity of manpower.
Having a latrine and using it for the purpose it is meant for are two important aspects of basic sanitation. Availability of water is extremely important to make the sanitation drive a successful initiative. As per the statistics provided by DWSM, Rayagada, there are 175 villages and one gram panchayat on the pipeline to be declared as Open Defecation Free(ODF) after due verification at three levels: Self assessment by Gram Panchayat & Gram Sabha, DWSM verification by inter block ODF Team and finally third party concurrent monitoring and evaluation. According to Sankaran, the verification by inter block ODF Team will shortly start.
In order to ensure the term ODF conveys the same meaning across India, Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, GOI defined ODF as “the termination of faecal-oral transmission defined by a)no of visible faeces found in the environment/village, and b) every household as well as public/community institutions safe technology option for disposal of faeces.” Safe technology option means no contamination of surface soil, ground water or surface water; excreta inaccessible to flies or animals; no handling of fresh excreta; & freedom from odour and unsightly condition. So ODF declaration comprises of three key processes, which are cumbersome, namely community self assessment, verification and finally certification. Accordingly Odisha ODF Verification Guideline has been developed by Odisha State Water and Sanitation Mission under the aegis of Rural Devt Deptt of Govt of Odisha in January 2016.
To have a reality check of ODF under SBM(G) with an approach of Community Led Total Sanitation(CLTS), this correspondent visited two villages named Gurunthi and Toskapadu under Matikona GP of Rayagada block. Gurunthi, around 30 kms from Rayagada district headquarters, has 25 households belonging to Kandha Tribe. Everybody has a pucca house either under Indira Awas Yojana-IAY or Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-PMAY except one family headed by Sri Hari Himirika. There is another person named Sri Daliga Tadingi who has no pucca house; but the villagers say that this year proposal has been given by palli sabha and he will get a house shortly. All the households possess Indian Household Latrines(IHL) except six families headed by Suba Rao Huika, Lachhana Miniyaka, Babana Himirika, Nase Rao Himirika, Mohan Huika and Hari Himirika who have been separated from their parents this year. In tribal culture, when a man gets married, he gets separated from his parents by constructing a new home.
According to Nagesh Himirika and Gahin Kulesika, there are three tubewells for the villagers out of which only one is fully functional. The other stops flowing after pumping for five minutes. The third one is totally dysfunctional. Apart from drinking, they depend on this tubewell for bathing, washing utensils and quenching thirst of their bovine population. They do not have streams or river nearby. They face sheer difficulties in all the seasons. Summer is horrible. They agree that they are not using their latrines for the purpose they are meant for; but gleam with smile to use the latrines if either the tubewells become functional or another tubewell is provided. Rama Rao Himirika goes a step further by asking a solar powered water system and says that it will be too easier to use the latrines after accessing water. Sankaran has responded positively and assured to provide one more tubewell to this village.
Each household of Toskapadu village has a latrine being fruitfully used because of availability of water source. Like Gurunthi, villagers of this village are aware of ill effects of open defecation. On the wall of the skylight, most latrines have soap pieces. There is a bucket in the latrine. No latrine is housed with firewood or pet animals or birds.
Tribal villages like Toskapadu are eye openers in spite of several criticisms to DWSM like low quality construction, bribery, utillisation for different purposes, etc. There is aggressive awareness at grassroot levels involving several stakeholders, especially youth and community members. Various IEC methods like chetana rath, rallies, banners, posters and demonstration are being used. Latrines as basic infrastructures are ready. Awareness can lead to their optimum utillisation. We also agree that the implementers are not foolproof; but govt officers like Sankaran has shown the way and tribals have yet again proved that there is always a way if there is a will, says Sankaran. Swachh Bharat Mission in a campaign mode is in top priority list of District Collector Smt Guha Puman Tapas Kumar, who has proved her excellence in CLTS during her prior engagements.