– Ms. Lidsay Vogt, Researcher
- PMT’s creative toilet planningMany people taking up the Swachh Bharat scheme don’t have much space to build a new room in or as an external addition to their home. Deciding where to place a toilet in a small home becomes a big challenge which requires creativity and innovation to solve. Here’s how residents of Hebbal village are meeting this challenge.
One family in Hebbal found space only outside of their house in the lane out front, but this is also a space where a fully mature tree was growing. The family wanted to keep the tree and was not keen on sacrificing it to build a toilet. With the PMT’s assistance, construction has started in a way that does not harm the tree. “Why not?” Hema, the PMT Project Manager, said.
When there is very little space inside or outside of the home, the PMT has worked with people to find other suitable places for toilet construction. In many cases in Hebbal, people have decided to build the toilets just outside of their front entryways.
2. The Driving force: Self motivated Mr. RaviBefore joining the PMT in Davangere, one team member, Ravi, decided that he did not want to immediately seek employment after finishing his Master’s degree. Instead, an internship experience with the NGO SNEHA inspired Ravi to facilitate the construction of toilets in his village, Ramagatta. Once he helped 60 households construct toilets in his village – sometimes even offering his own money for construction materials – he was moved to continue the work in nearby villages. In all, before he began his work with the Project Management Team, Ravi assisted 220 households in constructing toilets.
After a formative internship with SNEHA in Mysore, Ravi felt that he had two perspectives that were necessary for achieving in rural development: an understanding of village life and needs, which he acquired by growing up in Ramagatta village in Davangere district, and salient skills for making a development project work, which he acquired through an extended internship with SNEHA. Miffed by the complacency of his well educated siblings, Ravi was inspired to do the opposite: to bring positive change to his village.
He thought sanitation was central to quality of life, and so he began with constructing toilets. Along the way, he encountered both successes and challenges. Starting with his own extended family, he convinced about 60 households to construct toilets. That part was easy, he said. In fact, in his own village, his work became easier over time. As more and more toilet construction ensued in his village, toilet construction supplies accumulated outside his house and the word got around that Ravi was the person who knew how to make it happen. He knew the administrative process of applying for government assistance; he knew material suppliers and contractors; and he knew the larger benefits that having toilets might bring to the village: better health, increased safety, a healthier environment. People who were interested in having a toilet started coming to him independently. He often even supported people as they took on the financial burdens of building their own toilets. While Ravi’s whole village did not ultimately build toilets, many of them did. In fact, to achieve this, Ravi found it to be quite easy.
It was only until he started working outside of his own village that he encountered challenges. He found that in each village, simple awareness building was not enough – in order for the scheme to take hold, he needed the collaboration of the local government officials and popular leaders of the community. Ultimately Ravi helped 220 households construct toilets in and near his village of Ramagatta but given the challenges he encountered while attempting to establish relationships with community leaders, Ravi decided to move on to other work.
It was only a stroke of luck that allowed him to build upon his ever-developing expertise in community sanitation communication. Soon after he stopped his personal volunteerism, he received a phone call from SNEHA, an organization which would ultimately form the Davangere PMT (and which would thus soon commence a lot of sanitation communication work). Ravi was an inspiration to those who initially formed the PMT, and his experiences – both his successes and challenges – became invaluable as they started their work. Further, the PMT gave Ravi an official capacity to start to overcome the challenges that he faced earlier. He now is in frequent communication and collaboration with village and Panchayat leaders as they jointly pursue completing the Swachh Bharat coverage.
3. Putting people and pieces together to make it happen – The Tavarekere way
In order for a government scheme to be effective at the local level, it requires the interest, cooperation, and coordination of many local government officials. In Tavarekere, where toilet coverage is just shy of 90%, the Gram Panchayat officials have been essential to the scheme’s success.
In Tavarekere, members of the Gram Panchayat (GP) showed a lot of support for the Swachh Bharat toilet construction programme from an early stage. They were open to working with Arghyam and other groups to enhance the communication of the scheme, which created a lot of public awareness. Then, they employed a series of tactics to increase people’s interest and increased awareness or to increase it even further –they started linking scheme enrollment to other GP provisions, they persistently visited households to remind them of the scheme. Local government members, in this case, not only handled the technical or bureaucratic aspects of the scheme, but they took it upon themselves to enact and support communication with residents in their villages so that they would know and value the scheme. They executed the program in such a way that people took up the scheme quickly, approvals were quick to happen and incentives were disbursed in time.
We spoke with several representatives of Tavarekere Gram Panchayat – a former GP president, Mr. T B Mruthunjaya, Panchayat Development Officer, Mr. Sangana Patil, GP Data Entry Operator, Ms. Sweta, and GP Bill Collector, Shant Kumar, who gave their thoughts on their work. They said that communication efforts such as those made by the Arghyam communication campaign and the PMT are key to the scheme’s success. In addition, they also made some innovations to implementing the toilet construction scheme which made it more successful, In addition, GP Ex-President, Mr. Mruthunjaya, also advocated for helping to pay people’s up-front construction costs, as many cannot afford to pay the costs on their own.
4. Bheemakka in Tavarekere – toilet as a tool to reduce dependency of differently abled people
Bheemakka was born and grew up in the village of Shikaripura (in Shimoga district). It was only when she married that she came to the village of Tavarekere. For a living, she finishes baskets by folding and tucking in the spokes (bringing the edge inside) of the basket frame to make it a finished product. For this work, she earns 1 Rupee per basket.
Bheemakka was born with no eyes, which makes it difficult for her to do a number of tasks, including go to the fields in order to relieve herself. Bheemakka lives with her son, 16, who is in 10th standard and who helps her with many daily tasks, including the difficult task of finding a suitable place in nearby fields for relieving herself, which many of her neighbors do with ease. Bheemakka recognizes true value in a toilet, as it will enable her independence in most of her personal activities. Not only will she be able to navigate the path to the toilet alone, but having a toilet also liberates her growing son from the obligation to accompany her each time she needs to go to the bathroom.
When she first heard about the government scheme that provided funds for constructing home toilets, she was interested but encountered some challenges. She was told initially that she would have to pay for the toilet construction first with her own money (she could not afford the up-front costs of building a toilet and then would be compensated later by the government). From her basketry work, Bheemakka makes only 5-10 Rs. per day, an income hardly sufficient for the money required to construct a toilet. Then, a breakthrough occurred: A group of visitors (the Project Management Team) came to her house one day to tell her that they would build the toilet free of cost. Her only contribution would just have to be the documents that proved her eligibility for the scheme, which were collected and filed with the help of the PMT. We were happy to hear that construction work was scheduled to begin just two days after we visited her.
With the support of the PMT’s revolving fund, Bheemakka has been able to start her home toilet construction and she is happy now for she need not depend on any one for her nature calls.
5. Ms. Gurusiddamma, Hebbal village
Gurusiddamma lives alone for the last six years since the death of her husband. She is over 70 and suffers from a chronic ankle injury that makes going for nature calls in nearby fields, as is custom, a labouring and painful process. When we visited her, she told us that her toilet, which is currently in construction, could not be built fast enough owing to Panchayat elections. Only when the construction is completed, she be able use the bathroom whenever she pleases and without pain. In Hebbal, the PMT while working on bringing all households that are eligible under the Swachh Bharat scheme, has been able to identify particularly urgent cases, such as Gurusiddamma’s, to expedite the process wherever possible. Toilet construction is underway for Gurusiddamma.
6. Local Chmapions: Mr. Krishnappa, Mandluru Gollarahatty village, Hebbalu GP
A man well over 60 whose highest level of formal education is class 2nd becomes the only one in his village to build and use a toilet. How and why does this kind of an incident occur? Where does it come from?
When asked, Krishnappa, a farmer of corn, vegetables, raggi, first cites that he is a supremely self-motivated person. It is because of his desire, because of his interest that he did it. In fact, when he initially built his toilet, he constructed and paid for it himself. Only later was he compensated under the government scheme.
However, when asked a little further, he tells that he is a man who travels quite a lot and who is enthusiastic about education. Despite only finishing school until the 2nd standard, Krishnappa told us that “Education is like eyes for blind people. With these eyes [refers to his literal eyes], you can only see the world, but with education, you can see him [God] also. That is the real eye.” Keeping a copy of the Bhagavad Gita in his shirt pocket even when he is working in his fields, Krishnappa often makes pilgrimages to temples in South India. On those trips, he would stay at temples and hotels and he would not know where to find a proper place to go to the bathroom. In those places where he temporarily resided, he first encountered toilets. He liked them so much that he decided to build one for himself in his own village.
He started with his own family members, who were resistant. His wife refused to use the toilet until she encountered a snake while going out in the field to go to the bathroom; she is now a regular user. Then, he started convincing others in his village, often to their chagrin. Even so, he managed to convince about 20 households, roughly half of the village, to pursue toilet construction. At present, many have built pits and are waiting for materials to build the toilets.
During his experiences of talking to people about toilets, Krishnappa found caste to be very important for people’s conceptualization of – and resistance to – toilets-. Everyone in the village is from the same caste, Gollava, he said. Historically, they lived in the forest and would, by custom, leave the village for nature calls or to relieve themselves. Krishnappa says that this tradition is still strong and equates it to other caste-specific beliefs and practices, such as not raising or touching chickens. He told us, “Sometimes, some people look at it as funny, shitting in the middle of a city. They think that we are making this place dirty (the surroundings of the house)…Some people don’t like to shit in the surroundings of the house” but, Krishnappa believes that if you are able to place the toilet far away from the house, it will not violate cultural practices and will be more sanitary for everyone.
At first, Krishnappa was happy with his toilet and stopped there. It wasn’t until the Project Management Team started working in his gram panchayat that he recognized his situation as novel. Encouraged by the PMT, Krishnappa soon started on a mission to convince his neighbors to build their own. In part, he was motivated by the awkwardness and filthiness of defecating in the open fields. On one hand, people are often humiliated and scolded by landowners when they are using another person’s fields for relieving Krishnappa himself personally experienced this kind of shame. But, on the other hand, Krishnappa himself owns land and can be found working in his fields many days of the year. While shit is good for the soil, he said, it’s not very nice or healthy for people who work in the fields. Those who work the fields sometimes encounter the waste/excrement of others while they harvest, plant, cultivate the soil. Because they are working with their hands, this is not only disgusting but also unsanitary, unhealthy.
Occasionally it is not the PMT that does the house-to-house communication work required to popularize the Swachh Bharat toilet construction programme, but, rather, a person who they have identified as a local champion such as Krishnappa of Mandluru Gollarahatty. Though he is well over 70, Krishnappa is an energetic, innovative man who continues to farm a variety of crops. When the PMT came to his village, they found that Krishnappa, wholly independent of Swachh Bharat and its previous manifestations, had built a toilet for himself on his own initiative. He is the only one in his village of 41 households who has a home toilet, no one else in his village had a toilet in part because of a long standing village belief that waste should be released only outside of the village, not inside of it and certainly not inside the home. When the PMT first encountered Krishnappa, they found that he and his wife were the only people in the village using a toilet. They had never thought to broach the topic with their neighbours. However, with the PMT’s encouragement, Krishnappa started introducing the concept of the toilet to his neighbours and despite the longstanding taboo against waste in the village and home, Krishnappa found that half of the village (20 households) were amenable to the idea and thereafter commenced enrolment in the Swachh Bharat scheme.