By Vijay Krishna, Arghyam
On Wednesday, 12th February 2014, I visited Maggidaragihalli village and Halekallu village, both in Halekallu Gram Panchayat, Jagalur taluk in Davangere where Centre of Gravity had done the pre-pilot in December 2013. I personally saw about 25 new toilets completed or close to completion, and there are upwards of 50 under construction in those two villages. Personally, this was a real high to see in person.
A few people who had finished toilet construction were grumbling about non-receipt of the incentive. As part of the campaign, the CEO of Davangere district has made a promise to the people that the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) incentive for toilet construction will be disbursed in 20 days. (As a matter of fact, in the pre-pilot that was done in Maggidaragihalli, the promise was for 45 days). In later presentation to the Principal Secretary, RDPR Karnataka, he insisted that the state as a whole, not just this BCC programme should deliver the incentive in 20 days, so that was changed later in the communication material). This however means that the subsidy will be released within 20/45 days after construction of the household toilet is completed, as per the NBA guidelines. I was unable to get a clear picture from the complainants in this village, but feel that they may have misunderstood the time promise as starting from the day of construction of the toilet. In any case, the payment remains a critical aspect in the delivery of the NBA programme as a whole, and is vital to sustaining any demand that is generated through communication efforts such as these. While Arghyam is not responsible for subsidy disbursal, we will have to remain involved to see how we can facilitate and smoothen the process. One way we are doing this is by working on an IT tool to track the process of toilet construction and disbursal of incentive. The tool tracks the progress of toilet construction through various milestones (interest expressed, application submitted, pit dug, NREGA amount received, superstructure completed, photos taken, NBA incentive disbursed). The Swacchtha Dhoot or data entry operator in the GP enters the data for each toilet in progress. This then gives officials at the taluk and district level a way to track progress in construction, find the bottlenecks and laggards and push the process forward.
The Swacchatha Dhoot is the frontline worker for the NBA programme, and will bear the brunt of people’s irritation over the delay in receiving toilet subsidy from the government. S/he will need a lot of support in the next few months, even after the campaign pilot is over. This is to ensure that follow up continues after the pilot is over.
The toilets that have been newly constructed are really dark inside once the door is closed.
Seeing this makes me feel now that this is really a missed opportunity, in that Final Mile’s findings about usability could have been incorporated at the time of construction. While the other factors like small size and lack of water are also issues, the darkness inside the toilet and lack of ventilation is very stark. We will try to start a process of engaging with masons right now to build in a way to get more light inside while the toilet is being constructed. We also need to understand from people who have constructed toilets in the past, on how they manage this factor.