Sandeep Kadam, DC Mandi, again demonstrates the criticality of district leadership for change. A district already declared open defecation free, Sandeep has not only continued the momentum, but reenergised it by activating mahila mandals (women groups) across his district. Hailing from Maharashtra, he says the philosophy behind this approach is the teaching of Mahatma Phule – ‘ teach a woman, and you reform a family’.
Singapore provided insights into some useful concepts deployed by the country in their public policy. I am outlining five broad ideas emerging from my recent tour that are of overarching relevance.
2. The first one is leadership. Visionary and committed political leadership in Singapore for a prolonged period provided policy continuity and remained the main pillar of Singapore’s development. The civil service, with merit-based promotions and peaking of careers at younger age, also have lessons for India. Especially, the system of performance evaluation, looking at the potential of an officer – and not just his prior performance – through qualities such as `helicopter quality’ (ability to understand the broader picture, while simultaneously zooming in on details, wherever required), analysis, imagination and realism is impressive. The public organizations also seem to have a better developed second rung of specialists/think tanks developed over the years through multiple mechanisms, including the Public Sector Leadership Programme.
3. The second important learning is focus on education – reinforcing the theory of emphasizing on this endowment for redistributive justice. Education has been looked upon in Singapore not only as an important component for individual development, but also a medium for cohesion amongst different ethnicities – Singaporeans are supposed to study only in Singapore public schools – and consequent nation-building. The aptitude and potential of a child is gauged at an early stage to provide him specific academic/technical/other specialized education and training. The due importance of skills and link with industry may have important lessons for ‘Skill India Mission’.
4. The third noteworthy concept is pragmatism in public policy, meritocracy and appropriate use of behavioural economics concepts and ‘nudging’ in public policy. Singaporeans are not bound by any broad ideology and the State is a wonderful mix of free market as well as State control, wherever required (for e.g. housing, health, and education). Through an iterative process, the policy-makers developed solutions best suited to their conditions. When they realized that their children were weak in mathematics, they worked deeply on the same and came up with a `Singaporean Maths’ model that sets global high standards today. The country appropriately uses ‘nudging’ and ‘default options’ to promote desirable behaviour in areas such as tax payment and savings.
5. Singapore like India is a pluralistic society. Having faced racial riots in the 1960s, the country has taken proactive measures to integrate the different ethnic groups. This has been done through housing societies that compulsorily houses people from different communities in proportion to their population, provision of open space in these localities for their inter-mingling and common education that provides a sense of unity and builds a national value. There is a system of specific support (but no reservations) to economically vulnerable groups. All this may have important lessons for India.
6. Last but not the least, Singapore has used technology effectively to provide solutions to public problems. The entire State is wired, that has proved to be a big deterrent against any crime. `Digital India’ Programme can draw lessons from this.
Hands of majority of motivators in Fatehgarh Saheb rise to a question – ‘how many of you have taken shit in your hands’ ?
de sakte hain balidan,
us desh ka vartman kuchh bhi ho
par bhavishya hai maha mahan”. His prophecy seems to be coming true.
The Swachh Bharat is a programme different from many. Rather than a typical government programme talking of subsidies, beneficiaries and target, it is taking the form of a social movement with its passionate soldiers working at ‘behaviour change’. Learning from its earlier avatars, Swachh Bharat has realised that if only we are able to convince people that open daefecation is disastrous for them, and that opeb daefecation by anyone in their village is equally disastrous for them, the rest of the job is easy.
However, this is easier said than done. Converting a programme from a sarkari programme to a social change movement first requires ‘unlearning’ on the part of implementers – coming out of the role of ‘providers’ of welfare and subsidies to ‘facilitators’ of development. Before working on the mindset of people; before attempting to change their age old practice of open daefecation; our own mindsets have to be worked upon !
Working on behaviour change is a science of sorts. Primarily, yes, it requires a basic nature of love for the people. But beyond that, one needs tools to bring about this behaviour change. Sermons, bhashans etc have been tried for long, but have had limited effect. The CLTS ( Community Led Total Sanitation) brought in refreshing ‘trigger tools’ that spread like wild fire and caught the imagination of facilitators and people alike. Practiced over many years in different milieu, these tools increased in number and variety. Practitioners across, challenged with the goal of ODF, improvised and developed innovative ideas. The whole idea was to use something that catches the imagination of people, facilitates sustained engagement with them in an interesting way and is effective in the sense of nudging communities into action.
Naming and shaming developed as a tool for behaviour change. The original purist form may have been a ‘walk of shame’ where the facilitator took villagers through the site of open daefecation, walking through the shit, even standing there and discussing. This was a major change from ‘sober’ public meetings held in Gram Panchayats or public places. And proved useful. The shaming thus developed as a tool widely used.
What may be realised is that this shaming was usually collective shaming. Even if names were taken in the collective shaming discussion, it was with a view to collectively improve, and not shame a few. The skill of the faciltator ensured that the naming and shaming was ‘unifying’ not divisive.
As the work is scaling up, two facts become relevant : One is a subconscious timeline pressure to achieve results quickly. And two, there are constraints in reaching out good trainings across the country. Timelines are important, since we cannot continue with the blot for too long, and have to work in a Mission mode – start to finish. On trainings, novel ways such as virtual trainings are being considered to reach out fast. However, irrespective of these, what is happening also is that implementers across the country are devising novel ways to influence behaviours. Many of these are innovative and enriching the pool of ‘trigger tools’. An example is ODF Olympics in district Harda, Madhya Pradesh, where the district administration organised sports competitions only between the ODF villages. The non-ODF villages were not allowed to participqte in these popular sports ! This is also naming and shaming of sorts; however it is again ‘collective’ naming and shaming and therefore still acceptable ( ? less harmful) .
Another type of naming/ shaming is also emerging at some places. Somewhere it takes the form of social restrictions, somewhere linked with law to deny benefits to those who do not own a toilet ( in Haryana and many States, one cannot contest a Panchayat election, unless one has a toilet at home- this has been upheld as a reasonable restriction by none other than the Supreme Court in Rajbala case), and some places extended to schools. In Andhra Pradesh, there is a ‘self -respect’ campaign, wherein in schools the names of children who have toilets is written separately from those wjo don’t have it. In some districts of Rajasthan, in schools, the children who have toilets are ‘positively discriminated’ by giving them special bags etc.
It is difficult to judge the utility and impact ( positive or negative) of these interventions, primarily because they are all contextual. However, some general impressions can be drawn. The foremost remains that naming and shaming, if used, be primarily collective, and not individualistic. The whole idea is to propagate sanitation as a collective good and not an individual good. In case where individual naming/ shaming is done, ( if at all it has to be done!) it makes more sense if the naming/ shaming tools are left to insiders i. e. the villagers themselves, and not outsiders ( read bureaucracy). One also has to be watchful that the naming/ shaming does not promote exclusion of specific castes/ communities etc.
As far as children are concerned, it has proved very effective to involve them in campaigns, collectively. Children in groups, as vaanar sena, going from house to house, asking elders to construct toilets ( Zid karo abhiyaan, Madhya Pradesh) seems a very potent tool. However, anything divisive amongst children, such as separately naming those children who do not have a toilet, or rewarding those who have one, may be evaluated carefully, since child psychology is sensitive, and since a child may not be able to influence decision in his/her house, despite wanting to have a toilet.
Overall, the talisman may be – anything that is unifying ( resulting in the overall cumulative good, all adopt good practice, there is no coercion or heart-burn, the process brings all people together) is good; anything divisive, rethink !
We have a cycle wallah close to our colony. He lives with one or two more people on the pavement, making a small hut, around 6 by 3 feet, that is his residence, kitchen and shop all in one. Last time i went to his shop, i asked him where i could get a good cycle pump. He had said he would get me one – a more durable and quality one within a week.
This time he had got one, and he showed to me. It was indeed a better quality one, than the one typically sold in markets and one which i found did not last long. He said this one costed Rs 160. I gave him Rs 200, and he was returning Rs 40. I was surprised, that he did not expect any money extra than what he would have paid ! What about the cost of his effort of procuring it ? Does anyone, any businessman do this, even for known ones, leave alone strangers? He showed later that the pump had a printed price of Rs. 299, and wondered why people overpriced products so much and fooled other people.
I looked at his torn shirt. I also noticed a younger worker in his shop for the past few days. He was deaf and dumb, no less skillful in his job. Earlier, i thought he was the deaf and dumb boy who was with this man for long; but realised he was another one (? younger brother of the other one). I do not know if these two were his children or not. But certainly, he had passed on his skills to these two, so that they would survive.
The elder deaf and dumb was inside the hut, eating food. The cycle wallah in the meanwhile told a visitor ( ? acquaintance ) if he had eaten. He said “kuch khaya hai”. The cycle wallah said – ” khana bana hai, kha lo”; seeing that the visitor was not sure if there was food for him as well, the cycle wallah said – “khana hai, sab ke liye!”. Do we welcome an uninvited person over a meal ?
The cycle wallah’s hands were bleeding. He showed me, saying a rat or a chuchunder might have bit him during the night, and he has called some vaid to give him an injection. ” Vaid aata he hoga !”
The budget announcement of 2016 included this – ‘In order to continue this (Swachh Bharat) momentum, priority allocation from Centrally Sponsored Schemes will be made to reward villages that have become free from open defecation’.
This was a very special moment. It brought back memories of 10 years ago, when I was working in Jalna district in Total Sanitation campaign. One day, I visited one of the early (open defecation free) ODF villages in that district, Dudha in Mantha taluka of Jalna. The picture of Dudha sarpanch is clear before me. A short heighted person, little stout, with a Gandhi topi, and with a heart of a champion, a natural leader, a public-spirited person, who had taken lead in and persuaded his entire village to become ODF. After he had shown me his village, he mentioned that water in his well had almost dried, and people were feeling water scarcity. With folded hands, and moist eyes, but a smiling face, he requested me if a well could be sanctioned for his village. I got a jolt of kinds! Here was a man, a person who should be worshipped, a person, who keeping the public good first, did something that was very rare in those days, and pulled his village out of misery of centuries. And he had still to ask for something, again not for himself, but for his village. I felt he deserved it as a right, much more than anyone else, and we sanctioned him a water supply scheme then and there. Here is how I documented the incident 10 years ago in my book ‘Beyond sanitation’, an incident that was to become an important learning for me in my early years :
“Dudha is a small village in Mantha Block, which had the prestige of being first in the district in Sant Gadge Baba Abhiyaa. When we visited the village, we found a tremendous zeal in Murli, sarpanch, to make his village developed. There was also a very positive environment in the village …no factions, no false complaints. The village was in dire need of a well. Most schemes go to villages which are not necessarily the ones needing them the most; and certainly not the ones who would implement them in the most efficient and transparent way. Dudha made us realise that there was a need for ‘positive incentivisation’ for such villages. Our Zilla Parishad passed a resolution to consider ODF villages on priority while selection for various developmental programmes. It works like this. In ODF villages, the positive energies of people are unleashed and they are capable of implementing all other development programmes in a much more transparent and efficient way. The best thing is that everyone in the village begins to think about the village as their own, and hence the best chance for success arises. The interdependence thus begins to be developed not only within the village but also between the villages on the one side and Government on the other. It is not ‘You do it (for us), we shall give you …’ philosophy but ‘because you have done this, you need to be appreciated’ philosophy. There is a thin but a definite difference between the two. It is a win-win situation.”
As I learn more about the community processes, I realised that the most ‘purist’ community and participative process is where one does not link it to any extrinsic ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’. Programatically however, there was a definite need to encourage the ‘good’. As the programme was upscaled in Maharashtra, due recognition of grass root champions began to decrease. There was a feedback from sarpanches of some districts that while they took so much effort for their villages, there was not even ‘a pat on the back’. Therefore, the logic to institutionalise positive incentivisation, especially if work is to be done on scale gained strength.
In South Korea, we learnt about the Saemaul Undong, the new village movement. Sameaul Undong, meaning New Village Movement, is an approach adopted by South Korea in 1970s to involve the rural community in their own development. It is based on the three principles of diligence, self-help and cooperation. In this programme, the government identified community leaders with voluntary spirit and gave them basic training in leadership. These leaders then identified certain projects for their community, for which the Government provided basic support in the form of materials. In the process, the communities not only became self-reliant, but also learnt to plan and implement holistic developmental programmes on their own. Saemaul Undong, in a way was about positive incentivisation. The philosophy was “ Why should we give street lights to a village, if the villagers were to sit beneath them and drink, and even break them !” But if the community took one step, Government would respond with nine steps.
With this basic conviction, when I joined Swachh Bhart, I mooted this idea. The conviction was strengthed by winessing that champion Collectors in many States were already linking up other small schemes – a watershed work, a community toilet, cleaning up pond, a water supply scheme – in ODF villages and responding more favourably to demands of such villages. These demands, such as request for a teacher in the village school, small from administration’s point of view (in its coldness and vastness) can be very critical for the village. And the Collector/CEO, Zilla Panchayat are usually in a position to address those (thankfully), despite the ‘guidelines’ for each scheme. The idea was picked up well, and our Minister wrote to Chief Ministers of all the States, appealing to them to prioritise other development schemes in ODF villages. Our Minister also wrote to all the Central Ministries concerned to prioritise their schemes in ODF villages. When it comes to linking schemes of health, or child development, this linkage has greater logic. Shri Agnihorti, Retd Secretary and nutrition expert, calls the battle of malnutrition a cricket match in which you need all factors right. If one addresses few factors – good supplementary nutrition, health check up, but leaves the rest – poor sanitation and open defecation, the match cannot be won.
This is the kind of convergence that is required. Let each Ministry/Department do more of what they are doing – whether it is roads, or water supply, or housing or water conservation, or agriculture extension – in villages that are showing the courage and success to think together as a community, and work together to shed off a century old practice. It will certainly help the other Departments as well, since these villages will implement those schemes much better. And it will also encourage more and more villages to become ODF. Let this positive discrimination roll out !
Of course, caution has to be that one does not trigger a village to become ODF since they will get a road! A village has to become ODF for the sake of their own health. Another caution is that the more deserving ones of those schemes do not lose out. But we are only talking of prioritization, which means first amongst the equally deserving. The enabling environment has to be such that rewards the performers.