Rejuvenating and Strengthening Rural Sitamarhi

 

It’s an article written by Nitin Kumar, on the exemplary work done by the people of Sitamarhi (Bihar) under the guidance of District Magistrate, Sitamarhi Shri Rajiv Raushan. Nitin Kumar, Amit Kumar Jha and Abhinav Kumar are working as PMRDFs (Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows) in Sitamarhi since Jul’14 and have been a part and parcel of this mission “Swachh Sitamarhi” for the last 3 months since its inception in Dec’15. 

 

Sitamarhi is considered to be the birthplace of Goddess Sita. In such a holy land, more than 80% people defecate in open. A remarkable and distinctive feature of Open Defecation practice in Sitamarhi is that people of all cohorts (men, women, old, children etc) defecate on roads (not in fields as it is believed that Sita Maa emerged from the fields of this “Mithilanchal” region while Raja Janak was ploughing).

Sitamarhi

Sitamarhi District map- showing GPs of Phase-1 and few of Ph-2.

To restore the “pavitrata” and improve sanitation & hygiene here, four Gram Panchayats (GPs) were selected in 1st phase of ‘Swach Bharat Mission’. A rare combination of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), Women Led Total Sanitation (WLTS), School Led Total Sanitation (SLTS) and Youth Led Total Sanitation (YLTS) was employed to eliminate the unhygienic and unhealthy practice of OD. The outcome was Open Defecation Free (ODF) status for these four panchayats and output was a behavioral change in the people, a sense of confidence to traverse on the path of ODF Sitamarhi, in a meagre record time period of 40-45 days.

Full credits to the active “Nigrani Samiti”, Prabhat Pheris and Mashal Julush by school children, women waking up at 3AM to stop people from the banned practice (an unusual bottom-up ban on OD-Penalties of Rs.9500 collected on a single morning from a GP from the defaulters) and youth using their full energies yielded this outcome for these GPs, which had never envisioned such a historical success.

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman”

Facebook page , WhatsApp group “Swachh Sitamarhi” and Video messages from the country and abroad urged and motivated these GPs to stay dedicated and achieve ODF status before the stipulated deadline of 26th January’16.

Rural India (Bharat) is always one step ahead of India. This was validated and confirmed by the people here when they developed their own tools for mobilization and IEC (Information-Education-Communication)- Jingle, Folk Song, Cross-country Nepal FM channel etc.

A Nukkad script with the characters of a female child (Munni), her grandmother (Dadi) and her school teacher to target the religious sentiments of the people, they bank on at times to practice OD.

sitamarhi experiment 2

Swachhta Cup (Kabaddi) held on 24.1.16.

“We need to hold hands to progress on the path of ODF Sitamarhi and once we have achieved this status, we would continue to hold our hands”.

Moving ahead from ODF GPs to ODF+, encompassing Polythene Free, Liquor Free, Tobacco Free, Smoke Free, Organic Farming and Beautifully Decorated Gram Panchayats (BDGP), the mission 3 S-S’s thus starts from community and ends with a better place for the community to dwell and all this is done by the “community” itself with a mere support and motivation from the district administration.

The mission Swachh Sitamarhi, Swastha Sitamarhi, Sundar Sitamarhi (3 S-S’s) was incomplete till all the enemies of sanitation were eliminated. Thus, talking about the problem (samasya), reaching out to the solution (samadhan) and giving suggestions (sujhav) to frame the holistic definition of sanitation, was the final outcome of the interactions/sabhas held in GPs. The result is Biogas/gobar gas plants & Vermi-compost pits, Door-step Garbage collection and disposal (kachra Paatra) in almost every household of these GPs for “samekit swachhta” (integrated sanitation).

One of the seven “Nischays” of Chief Minister, Bihar, is to establish the culture of sanitation, and in this respect he has appreciated the Sitamarhi model to yield a true and sustainable “ODF Bihar” within the deadline of 2nd October’19.

Another unique idea that has come on the table while discussions among District Magistrate, PMRDFs and UNICEF, is of a Sanitation Circuit (similar to Buddhist circuit) by connecting the GPs (inter and intra state) doing exemplary work under SBM, for seeing, learning and applying them in their respective areas. It will add to the Tourism revolution which the country is hopefully watching for.

Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) has always been appreciated as a Border Guarding Force (BGF), keeping a close vigil over the Indo-Nepal borders. But this time it has traversed the domain from security & intelligence to something very innovative and first of its kind- ODF International Border. This transition from ODF village to ODF GP to ODF block to ODF district to ODF border is a unique contribution to SBM.

Sitamarhi experiment 1

SLTS Training in a Madarsa

All this wasn’t possible without the PHED (Public Health and Engineering Department) officials of district (EE & DC) & block (BC) and Panchayat level functionaries (ASHA/AWW/GAS etc.) who have constantly been working day & night in this chilling winter. At the same time the contribution by civil society organizations (CSO’s)-UNICEF & ACE and CLTS Resource “Hitler Jee” is worth mentioning.

Today we are at a crucial juncture, from where we can see “ODF Sitamarhi”, because of the 30 lakh people of Sitamarhi, who have started believing in this impossible dream once but a possible future in times to come.

Based on the achievement of 1st phase 4 GPs, 20 GPs in Phase-2 of the mission are putting persistent efforts to become ODF a habit apart from a feat. In this phase, we are also trying to work on ODF+ concepts mostly on Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) and Waste to Wealth- Bio-gas, gobar-gas, vermi-compost & Vermi-wash and last but not the least soak-pits (Sokhta)- “Sokhta revolution” is the next revolution in rural India and we have decided to organize S-Day (Sokhta Day) next month, under which soak pits would be constructed in all 2000 government schools across the district, eliminating the issue of water-logging and evil vector borne diseases like malaria, falaria, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis (JE) etc. Sitamarhi once infamous for three J’s- Jhara (OD), Jhagda (communal tension), Jhanda (religious processions-communal at times) has become the face of SBM-G/Lohia Swachhta Yojana not only in Bihar but in country, just because of the people of this backward yet forward looking district of the state, who have come together as a collective unit with a sense of brotherhood and harmony.

sitamarhi experiment 3

Mukhiyas of Phase-1 ODF 4 GPs felicitated on the                eve of Republic Day 26.1.16.

The commitment and motivation of the inhabitants of Sitamarhi instill us to work more and more to achieve the objective of a clean, green and healthy Sitamarhi.

(Editor’s Note: Clearly ‘Sitamarhi Experiment’ is a great idea in the direction of rural development. Help us in spreading these good words and inspiring other parts of the country to follow the path. Please provide your feedback also.)

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