Mountain biking in the Coorg


Never been a sportsman, but always keen to try new things, i booked up for a two-hour mountain biking in Coorg. The counter ego started its work, mentioning, why exert so much, rather have a morning walk with family etc. Thankfully, Nidhi advised that i must go. A family with a good mix of togetherness and personal space rocks 🙂 Later, when Fawaaz, my instructor mentioned how bad it felt when some people would just not turn up after booking, saying they over-slept, thus wasting their time, felt relieved not being one of the culprits 🙂

Jo sowat hai, so khowat hai. Seeing beautiful lotuses in the morning was one – another was decision that I would take kids zip lining, since Fawwaz, who became a friend recommended it highly.

Fawwaz belongs to a small town from Kerala. His friends who went to the Middle East are better off now, with cars and all, he says. But he has stuck to his passion, and as long as he has his bike (bicycle), he says he is happy. How many of us are able to do what we love ? When I share with him that my job is to tell people not to shit outside, he says, how lucky I am to serve the country and also earn a living ! He also encourages me to go ahead with my plan to take a sabattical and work with the people for a year.

Being with a male person is comfortable for those of us who did not learn since childhood to keep hormones aside while befriending a woman. Blessed are those who can maintain gender neutrality in making friends !

Fawwaz told me i did quite well – not stopping uphill, not fiddling while changing gears and not asking – aur kitna raasta bacha hai – he said i flowed with the flow 🙂 The secret was not high level of fitness – it was listening to the instructions he gave before we started – change gear before you pedal uphill, apply both brakes simultaneously and gently, apply brakes before you go downhill. Just these. Basics. On fitness too, i guess regular low key walk/jog kept me afloat : on this thanks to Ram/Lakshman, my kids- have to jog three km without panting or at least without letting them know that i am panting, so that they keep pace ! The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war !

Listening was easy – incentive was learning a new skill. Siddharth Shirole, a budding politician shared few days back that he gifts himself a new skill every birthday – bringing out his music album, or learning a new language or writing a book.

Biking per se was fun. It was no ordinary city biking with up/down slopes : we moved through kutcha rocky roads, with Fawwaz pointing out untouched evergreen forest on the sides, agriculture fields, with cows and calves either ignoring or getting scared, pond side, where I demonstrated triggering tools ( of no-shit) to Fawwaz, guava orchards, in front of a tribal temple , past an old man carrying a dead snake on his stick, besides a sacred grove – community forests where no one encroaches and Coorg special local cricket event – a healthy and happier entertainment instead of the city mall culture.

All in all, the bike tour was full of aha moments; endorphin flushes were a bonus.




Case Studies and Sanitation : Practices and Principles

A discussion is on in the SuSanA ( Sustainability Sanitation Alliance) regarding nature and utility of case studies for sanitation. The subject assumes importance in the context of establishment of RALUs ( Rapid Action Learning Units) in rural sanitation sector – although they are in the nascent stage and need much strengthening. Another relevant background is establishment of a Knowledge Management portal ‘Swachha Sangraha’ by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation – – wherein States/districts now have a facility to upload their good practices (as a video, document, ppt).

Our views/comments are shaped by our beliefs. Research is a domain of extracting information least adulterated by beliefs.

Since sanitation is a lot about engaging leaders and getting them interested in the subject, an attribute of a good case study is that it should be inspiring. I should see it and feel – ‘wow! it is possible. He/she has done it, and therefore, i too can do it.’ Given the numerous challenges in the sanitation sector, hope is refreshing.

A case study outlining a structural change with wider ramifictions is another ‘replicable’ good study. Shift of programme from the PHED ( Public Health Engineering Department) to RDD/PR ( Rural Development Department/ Panchayati Raj Department) is a case in point. The shift signifies a perspective change in looking at sanitation as an issue to be sorted out with people’s engagement, rather than as an engineering/ contractor driven largesse.

So what is a best practice/ case study. Any study that captures a principle leading to achievement of desirable and sustainable outcomes at scale in a short period of time. Capturing of principle may be more important than capturing a practice. In a district, the administration does ODF Olympics – group sports events in which only open defecation free villages can participate ; the sports events are deliberately conducted in villages that are non ODF : to make them jealous; by not allowing them to participate. In the instant case, the practice is conduct of sports event. But what are the underlying principle(s) ? The underlying principles include
*leadership and initiative by a champion
*fostering collective spirit – only group sports were chosen to further gel the ODF community and enhance their team spirit required for sustainabilty.
*positive discrimination and enhancing competition, by disallowing non-ODF villages from participating
*flexibility to the district to take decisions
*productive engagement of village-level motivators in people engagement activities (and not bureaucratic work alone!)

Another case in point could be conduct of Nirmal Utsavs by a district : events in ODF villages, where all the government departments converge to sort out issues of that village on priority. Here too, the practice is a mere conduct of event, the principle, in addition to the principles enlisted above, is positive incentivisation of ODF villages.

Mere conduct of these events, unaccompanied by the principles underlying the conduct of this practice, may not lead to adequate results. As a corollary, a case study that captures and evaluates principles arising out of a practice is a good case study.

Principles should be disseminated, practices can be innovated.

In addition to disseminating good principles, principles that have not yielded results may also be understood and disseminated so that they are avoided. A case in point could be ‘construction of toilets without people’s engagement’.

The phrase ‘In India, many pilots have been successful, but few are replicated’ has to be qualified by the practice-principle framework. Principles are almost like natural truths – Sun rises in the East – and not likely to be incorrect. If the case studies however, fail to capture, reiterate and emphasise them, and focus only on the practices, which are nothing but mere examples of a good principle, the point in the case study may be missed.

Needless to say, replicability, dissemination and understanding of principles will also depend on mode of delivery of a case study. A case study, unless discussed, is dead.

Last but not the least, the effectiveness of a case study will depend on who is discussing this case study. The ones most enviably placed to make Bharat Swachh are the officials in key positions – Collectors, CEO, Zilla Panchayats, Municipal Commissioners. The case studies must reach them. In real time. In other words, the system of independent evaluation and feedback should be institutionalised within the system. This – timely and actionable feedback to implementers – was aimed to be sought through the RALU and the Swachha Sangraha platform. Multiplicity of discussion forums may have some merits – it brings in more stakeholders : however, these may not have the desirable impact if crux of these discussions do not reach the implementers for quick action.


No one knows when he came. He came and intruded. With love. He was weak, small; and as usual us humans treated him with contempt and stones. Ram, Lakshman my children became friendly with him; as they are with all the community dogs here. Since he jumped a lot, they named him Jumpy. Amongst stones and contempt, Jumpy found loving angels, Ram Lakshman and their gang. He became their companion. Out of our home, whether in play field or to the colony shop or anywhere, he would always accompany them.

People began to consider him a nuisance. Since many hated him, he seemed to become fearful and would bark at strangers some times. This behaviour of his earned him more enemies, and thanks to WhatsApp, everyone started exaggerating stories of his terror. I became known and friendly to him much later: earlier i would just bank on the good will of Ram Lakshman so that he didn’t bother me. But his love was so profound that he would not leave us anytime. Taking my pet dog for walk became difficult because he would linger around. The colony people began to shout at us and our children, saying ‘अपना कुत्ता बाँध के रखो ‘. There were threats to beat the hell out of him. There were few dog lovers in the colony, too, one of whom (perhaps rightly) said ‘i find some humans here in the colony perhaps much more dangerous than Jumpy! ‘.

We got him sterilised, thinking that would reduce his aggression. May be, it did. May be it would be wrong to call it aggression. Dogs are territorial, and Jumpy had his territory. Very small one. Around our Block K. We also began to feed him, thinking that a fed dog would be less ‘disturbing’ to others. That brought him up on the 4th floor where we live. Visitors to our home – phoolwalla, doodhwalla, dhobin, telephonewalla – he would bark at them. They began to threaten quitting/ express unhappiness. Simultaneously, there were news of Jumpy being beaten, stoned off and on by his haters. Even our neighbours complained. Every now and then, there was barking outside our home, and we feared the awful – that Jumpy bit someone. Although perhaps he never did bite. He just barked to may be protect himself.

Amongst this background, i called up MCD Vet doctor to take his advice. He mentioned that in case Jumpy is a real nuisance, a reputed NGO can take him to a dog shelter. I remembered in Australia there are no stray dogs because they would be kept in dog shelters. I checked about the dog shelter conditions – i was assured that dogs are not kept caged there; however they have to live and adjust with other dogs there : different dogs take different time to adjust. They are well fed, and are provided medical care if required. It was also mentioned that though safe and comfortable, the dog there may not be as happy as the colony where he is.

This made me feel uncomfortable and i returned the NGO van that had come to pick him up. Just could not give him. He had so much love for us in his eyes – more than our pet dog. He would now walk with me and pet dog even outside his territory – staying close to me, as if telling other dogs : i’m theirs, i’m safe, don’t mess with me.

The next day Jumpy ate up the sofa set of neighbours that they had kept outside for repair. They again pleaded to send him off. Complaints, news of someone having hit him, people shouting at Ram Lakshman continued.

I called the NGO Van again. Earlier we sent off Jumpy in the same van for steriliaation. He recognised the neck loop, the van. We thought we would feed him and take him in a leash to the van. Ram, my 10 year old, who has a strange amazing bond with animals felt uncomfortable. A few days ago only he had remarked, “Papa, जब कोई बच्चे मुझे कुत्ता बोलते हैं तो i tell them, thanks for the compliment. Papa, i really thing dogs are more amazing than humans”. We gave Jumpy bone to eat. After that we put him a collar and leash and with another chicken stick in hand, lured him close to the van. He became suspicious and wanted to run. His neck collar came off and he was free. He could have run – if he runs, no one can catch him. But he stayed, looked around, came to me. He trusted me. I again put a collar around his neck, and handed him to the van.

Ram wept for an hour. I am sad. The doodhwalla, dhobin, guards would all be happy. May be, Jumpy would be better there – in one sense – at least he would not be hit there. But he would also miss this place. I am not sure if he will trust me again. Or may be, if we go to meet him, he will again wag his tail and jump lovingly on us. Afterall, he is not a human.

Mesmerising Sachin : Trust, Transparency and Team-work for Swachh Bharat

When i learnt Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar, the legend, and Brand Ambassador of Swachh Bharat, was interacting with some champion Collectors ( doing brilliant work in sanitation) from across India, sensing that there would be limited slots, i expressed willingness to stay out. This was not allowed, and I ended up listening to the Master, mesmerised. Those twenty minutes will remain etched on our memories for long; importantly he touched our hearts.
True to his leadership mettle, he started off by complimenting the champion Collectors saying that while he, or a formula one racer would get noticed whenever they went on the field, IAS officers like the champions were doing selfless job. ‘You may not get noticed’, he said, ‘but the satisfaction you would get from within is priceless and cannot be bought in the market.’
Recounting the value of trust, transparency and team work for any project, he shared his experience as to how he and Rahul Dravid, on field, gave each other hints by holding the bat either in left or right hand to indicate the ball swing direction of Chris Cairns ! Challenges are there, he said, but so are the solutions. Team game taught him valuable lessons: sacrifice, collective planning, discipline, understanding others’ point of view, and executing the plan together.
The challenges disappear, he said the moment you are working from heart. Drawing lesson from his life, he said cricket for him is not a profession, it is his life. It started from his heart. When he practiced, he never looked at his watch. And ‘one hour extra’ , when everyone else left made him the Sachin. He chased his dream of playing for India and winning the World Cup, and stopped not till he was there.
On a query as to what kept him inspired and motivated for so long, he said he remembered always the advice of his father : ‘ there will be people who will criticise you,  pull you  down. Do not react to them. Ignore the naysayers. Ignore those who are saying the glass is half empty: Look at the glass half full and continue to work for filling the remaining half. Stay focused. When you reach there, these very people will hold you in awe’. And that is how Sachin pulled himself up from bad days : from days when people were calling him ‘Endulkar’. He worked more, practiced more and resurged.
How did he live up to the expectations of a billion plus people ? How does Swachh Bharat change the behaviour and attitudes of a billion plus people ? He says : ‘ we don’t have to change billion plus people; we have to assure ourselves that a billion plus people are fighting for Swachh Bharat !’ And then it will be possible. He appreciated the fact that children in a district simultaneously wrote letters to their parents, requesting them to construct toilets for them, mentioning that information in a system does not not necessarily have to flow from top to bottom: we often learn from below and from our children.
Sharing another experience of how his friend in Canada even disposed off waste from a glacier meticulously, saying, how can I dirty my country, he asked, ‘if you are littering or spitting, how can you claim simultaneously, you are proud of India, that you love India ? You cannot do both !’
He motivated all of us with his messages. ‘Never stop trying’ : your words will echo in our ears for long, Sachin !

Beyond swachhta, with women empowerment : Mandi Vikas Abhiyaan

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’.

He activated the  mahila mandals through a well planned strategy. Saksharta samiti, the literacy campaign NGO, partners with district administration. They have vikas doots ( development messengers) at the gram panchayat level. Sandeep effected some changes in this grass-root manpower to nominate the best people, many from those active in the mahila mandals. He then conceived a voluntary competitive programme for the district, called the Mandi Vikas Abhiyaan (MVA), comprising five components – Swachhta, shiksha samvad ( education dialogue), disaster management, meri ladli ( save the girl child) and micro-insurance. The district and block coordinators (also from Saksharta samiti) were first trained in these five components. These coordinators in turn trained and motivated the mahila mandals, and appealed to them to participate in these activities. The task was to work once a week – four times a month – collectively for the village. A competitive environment was generated in the district, with more and more mahila mandals looking at it as opportunity for developmental work and recognition. The latter was executed through an annual convention wherein the best mahila mandals ( 54 last year) were decorated last year at the hands of the Chief Minister.
The mahila mandals took up various activities under these components. In Swachhta, the mahila mandals played important part in completing the last leg of ODF campaign by convincing the remaining people not to go out and to construct their toilets. Thereafter, they worked on solid and liquid waste management. They learnt and dug soak pits, for individual houses, as well as at common places. They cleaned the school water tanks and public water tanks ( this activity was triggered when Sandeep saw in a whatsapp picture sent from field the poor quality of water in a school water tank and appealed to all the mahila mandals to take it up), swept the roads, made dust bins out of waste cement bags/ old bins and convinced people to keep one in each house. They also took campaigns with the help of children in removing bhang ( cannabis), a narcotic plant. They cleaned up public water sources, many of which had fallen in disuse. The philosophy behind this campaign, Sandeep says, is that ‘one who cleans, does not dirties’. Once the mahila mandals were cleaning the village themselves, their children and other relatives thought twice before littering, since they realised their own mother would be cleaning that ! When the Prime Minister gave a pledge of swachhta, and appealed to the nation to give some time voluntarily for swachhta, Sandeep deliberated on how this could be made systematic and sustainable – and came up with Mandi Vikas Abhyaan concept.
(Clockwise 1. Common pit for green waste 2. Household dustbin 3. Soak-pit for animal urine 4. Soak pit for kitchen/bath water)
For meri ladli campaign, the mahila mandals began celebrating the birth of a girl child, organising community feast (earlier done only for birth of a son) and even DJs ! They would collectively celebrate girls birthdays as well, giving them small gifts. So many songs have been composed around birth of a girl child replacing the word ‘boy’ with ‘girl’. The mahila mandals also became the focal point for receiving training as first responders during any disaster. This was done through the Red Cross : the difference is that due to active mahila mandals, Sandeep has been able to scale this up across the district.
A feedback that parents were not fully involved in the child’s education initiated ‘shiksha samvad‘ activities, wherein the mahila mandals visited the schools and discussed childrens’ education with the teachers. They also started ‘basta kholo‘ ( open bag) campaign to open the bags and books of their children to just see and put their signature/ thumb impression – even if some were illiterate they could sense progress or otherwise of their child. These interactions also alerted them to some other issues – alcohol/ drug abuse amongst children – and they could work to try nipping it in the bud. The mahila mandals also promoted LIC’s micro insurance amongst villagers, making their villages ‘Beema grams’.
The coming out of women for social activities was not without challenges. But their determination was complete. With strong support from the block/ district administration, they are taking up new and innovative activities as well.
In order to spread their good work, to cross share their activities, and to motivate them, the mahila mandals were given the phone numbers of the local journalists. The journalists began to get so many phones from these ladies, requesting them to come and see their work. They would even get gheraoed sometime, in case they did not give adequate coverage! The mahila mandal women also learnt to click pictures of their work and whatsapp it ! A ‘thumbs up’ sign from the DC Saheb, or his team was enough to keep them encouraged !
With the convergence of various programmes, resources also got converged. For e.g. the IEC funds for different schemes was converged, since various activities were handled at the same platform. The district administration also converged other development schemes to those villages that perforned best in swachhta indicators. This has been included in the Central policy now – prioritisation of all Centrally Sponsored Schemes in ODF villages. Various competitions – mahila mandal  puraskar, swachh gram, unnat gram – are announced, and villages/groups rewarded collectively.
Besides the specific programmatic benefits, the MVA is leading to women empowerment. Women, associated with cleanliness, began to question various cultural practices – such as disallowing them during menstrual period in the kitchen/ making them stay in the animal house. They questioned this was unhygienic and put their health at risk. In another village, during cleaning of the village, women were surprised to find large number of alcohol bottles, and have since collectively taken up with the men-folk control on drinking. They are also actively involving themselves and villagers in programmes like bhang plant removal, knowing fully well the damage that this can do to the children and youth. They are getting a platform to speak and gaining confidence to voice their concerns.
The positive environment in the villages generated through mahila mandals has touched panchayats as well. The panchayats, though a little anxious, that district administration is closing up to mahila mandals, has no option but to join the good work. Some of the mahila mandal members are contesting elections successfully. The model is being picked up by neighbouring districts – State may well take it up and replicate across the State.
The picking up of programme by the village women ensures sustainability.
(Left: Products made from reused waste; Top right: Women cleaning village street; Below right: Women selling non degradable waste to kabadi)
Although the approach is community engagement, as part of it, there may also be a merit in training and involving self help groups ( SHGs) more closely in Swachh Bharat. Two, the involvement of communities through any focal point – such as Swachh Bharat – creates a positive virtuous cycle of people’s participation in their own development. This may also throw up interesting model of media involvement by putting people and media closer together – and people vociferous and empowered. The mahila mandal model also provides for convergence of different developmental programmes at the village level – and takes the programme from ODF to Swachhta, and even beyond. Of course, role of Government remains critical in scaling up and supporting the local initiatives.
As the women beat all odds, and take up seemingly impossible tasks – sacrificing whatever little spare time they had; a thought does come to mind – what about men ? Is sanitation a women responsibility alone ?

People make systems, and systems people : Notes from Swachh Madhya Pradesh campaign


Ajit Tiwari is Deputy Commissioner, Swachh Bharat Mission, Madhya Pradesh. Years ago, prior to launch of Swachh Bharat, he was working as BDO of Budhni block in Sehore district, and was exposed to CLTS training. He says everyday he went to the training thinking that he would attend that day only if he found it useful- and ended up attending all five days. To convince himself of the practicality of approach, he started ‘triggering’ techniques in villages himself. Village after village began to become ODF in his district. He became a proponent of community approach, and believes in it till date. A grass-root practitioner like him in the State level team is good. At the State level, he is working with the same passion, implementing now the system of directly transferring incentive to the person’s account, and propagating construction by the individuals rather than the Gram Panchayat.
Ajit Tiwari
Ajit Tiwari
Harda is a district likely to be declared open defecation free ( ODF) anytime soon (tomorrow ! on the Independence Day). A district where Ganesh Mishra, ex CEO ZP and now ADM started the campaign ‘Operation Malyudhha’ did not suffer upon his transfer ( owing to ‘predecessor-successor’ syndrome) upon his transfer as ADM in the same district – his successor is his wife, Shanmuga Priya. Shanmuga not only took off from where Ganesh left, but took it to the logical end of ODF district through meticulous planning, focus on processes and innovations. She also got full support from revenue administration – Collector Srikant and his team.
Ganesh says that five things are required for a district becoming ODF. The first is the leadership, and mindset of the leadership. Once the Collector/ CEO Zilla Panchayat are themselves motivated, driven and have clarity of approach of community engagement and behaviour change, they can make this campaign successful. Fortunately, in Madhya Pradesh, both Collectors and CEOs are involved in Swachh Bharat, that acts as a double booster. Some other States where CEOs are in charge of development – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka – Collectors are still not involved closely. There are reasons for this since developmental role is with CEOs, however Swachh Bharat may require ‘ all hands on deck’ approach.
The second thing Ganesh emphasises is capacity building. Given that this programme is very different from most Government programmes; it does not require people’s involvement in a superficial sense – it is a people’s programme. The subtle differences between informing people and involving people needs to be understood. This requires regular trainings by experts, refresher training and trainings of all possible stakeholders, so that there is a common understanding of issues by everyone.
The third thing Ganesh says is – “do it before you judge it“. He believes that once you get into it, and do it rightly, it will be addictive. Fourthly, he talks of an “iterative strategy – doing, improving”. The district first worked with preraks who were governmental staff. Then they realised that these preraks could not give enough time to swachhta work due to their other duties, or did not have the right skill/aptitude required for this kind of work. Therefore, they moved to selecting preraks from amongst villagers themselves. And finally, he recommends – ” complete it before fatigue sets in“. He mentions that the work requires lot of time, energy, passion and working in top gear continuously. This degree of intense work can sustain for few months to a year may be. And therefore, one may rather finish it within that time.
Innovations in districts
A lot of innovations are happening at the district level. Sudam Khade, Collector Sehore, and a swachhta champion has devised and implemented a ‘tippy-tap’ across all the anganwadis in his district. He is now planning to do it in all the schools as well. ‘Tippy-tap’ is a simple device, where a can with a hole can be moved by a foot-driven stick to pour water for hand washing. Ganesh is also advocating disability/ elderly friendly toilets through simple, yet effective innovations, like encouraging a small hook in the toilet to help stand up from squatting position.
Harda district has been a laboratory of innovations. The district has given ideas like ‘gift a toilet on Rakshabandhan festival’ by brothers to sisters; ODF Olympics – sports for villagers from ODF villages; meticulous procedure for selection of preraks ( grass-root motivators) involving skill testing, group discussion and physical test; policy of no expenditure on IEC till the village actually becomes ODF; and a very strict verification procedure. The district has taken efforts to engage the Zilla Panchayat members proactively. Orienting them to the cause of ODF, some members felt agitated on the repeated use of the word ‘gun‘ ( faeces). Ganesh, who was facilitating the orientation deftly handled the situation, saying – ‘ ok, we will not use the word ‘gun‘ – we will call it ‘jalebi‘ – and used the word ‘jalebi‘ for faeces thereafter in the workshop. This had even more impact; he said to all that if they were all agitated about the situation, his purpose was solved. They had been triggered.
Scaling up
On scaling up, Madhya Pradesh is working now. Work is happening well in around ten districts (in Central and Southern Madhya Pradesh mainly,  some in Western Madhya Pradesh). The challenge is to spread this fire to the remaining districts. This requires further prioritisation of sanitation in the overall development agenda of the State. A talisman is the frequency with which the Chief Minister/ Chief Secretary of a State reviews Collectors/ CEOs on this programme; and the order of priority of sanitation in the agenda for such reviews.
Electronic transfer of funds to households
Madhya Pradesh has traditionally had sarpanches constructing the toilets for people. This was leading to some problems – delay in construction, uniform construction, people not using due to behavioural reason but blaming sarpanch for poor construction, actual poor construction by the sarpanch, theft of material procured collectively etc. The ‘preraks’ ( motivators) recruited for motivation were also primarily getting involved into facilitating actual construction of toilets. Since this task was part of prerak’s responsibilty, behaviour change work ( triggering) was being inordinately hurried.
The State had been working on behaviour change for few years and felt that there was some demand generation; and that there would be a set of people who can construct toilets on their own, provided the system of providing them incentive can be streamlined. They did the following.
Firstly, they made public ( on web site, and through village staff) the list of people who were ‘eligible’ to get incentive. Secondly, they nominated a block level supervisory officer for a village or few villages and made this information public. They also disseminated information about toilet technology to people. Thirdly, they started operating a single bank account at the State level and withdrew funds that were lying in different panchayats – the amont was a whopping 3000 million. Fourthly, they took help of Punjab National Bank to put in place system of direct electronic transfer of fund to each household. This system functions like this. Any person who knows his name is in the eligible list can start constructing his toilet. After his toilet is completed, he raises demand online, after verifying his account number, for incentive grant ( he can take help of village secretary for this). Once this demand is placed, the block supervisory person is to visit his house, upload the picture and accept or reject his claim, within seven days. This decision is also public, and if wrong, the household can contest the decision. Once the supervisory person has made online entry of acceptance of claim, the BDO processes online payment to the account of that person. The digital signatures of all BDOs available with MGNREGA, as also the accounts of people ( many done during Jandhan yojana), were captured in this system. When the system was to be introduced there was apprehension that pace of work would slow down and people would not come forward. However, this has not been the case and within one month of launch of the system, 61000 people have placed demand.
The system is at variance with the commumity approach, wherein collective behavioural change is triggered in the entire community. The understanding in MP is that while  work of behaviour change may continue, those who are ready to construct, their process may be facilitated. Once this is done, how the  remaining, who are usually the poorest and most vulnerable, will be covered remains to be seen. Unless that is done, health benefits may be suboptimal. A field officer remarks : ‘It is early days, and how useful this system will turn out to be, remains to be seen”.
Capacity building 
On software activities, the State has taken help of Feedback Foundation ( supported by UNICEF); but more importantly the State is building in-house capacity for training in community approaches. The State has trained around 4500 preraks in community approaches across the State. 22 of these, who were found to be best, have been engaged by the State for training, and follow ups. The master trainers amongst these 22 are paid Rs 2500 per day, and the rest Rs 1500 per day. These 22 people were earlier supported by WaterAid; now the State has directly entered into contract with them. The preraks in districts are non-governmental local people, selected by the districts, looking at their aptitude, capability etc. Harda adopted a wonderful system of recruiting preraks through advertisement, group discussion, interview, physical test and also got a bond filled from them after they were trained. Many other districts and the State seem to have learned from them and adopted similar systems. The system of paying incentives to these preraks and monitoring their work is also being put in place. The SBM G guidines provides an indicative manpower structure at the State, district, block levels – while some States have this manpower in place, some don’t. And this needs a close review and cajoling.
Big things 
ODF and sanitation are finally a priority issue in the country. For districts, States and certainly for the country, Swachhta is not something that is paid only a lip service and is ignored. A written communication on Swachh Bharat from the Centre is taken seriously; it is not ‘one of the many’ letters.
Secondly, a BDO, proudly remarked that he was called ‘gun waale saheb‘ ( shit -officer !) : reminded me of my days in Jalna, Maharashtra, where I was known by a similar name – ‘hagandari che CEO” ( CEO of shit!)
Thirdly, the concept of ODF is ensuring inclusion and coverage of the most vulnerable and difficult-to-cover categories. For e.g. districts are addressing sanitation issues of migrant labourers in appropriate ways. It is also being understood that ODF achievement is a one-time activity – that will have to be sustained on its own by the people and villages ( having been ingrained in the habits and culture); and without further dependence on the government. Sudam Khade picked up idea of non partition of house unless the new house has a toilet – and instructed all his officials accordingly.
Fourthly, the programme is reaching the stage where all answers are not sought necessarily from government – there are discussions, and many answers/ solutions arise from the people/ villages themselves.
Unsung heroes
The campaign is producing many grass-root champions/ heroes, work/contribution of many of whom may not even get known at the higher levels ( although the people for whom they are working will never forget them !). These comprise sarpanches, other natural leaders from villages, preraks ( motivators) and grass root functionaries ( could be village secretaries, anganwadi workers etc.) A prerak shared how a person had a toilet but the pit was open. He did not use the toilet but defecated around the toilet only. Despite convincing, neither did he use the toilet, nor cover the pit. The prerak and his team then themselves covered the pit, and also began to cover his shit with soil everyday – whereupon he felt ashamed and started using the toilet. Another prerak recalled how he was posted in a tribal village 70 km away from his home – and how he would even sometimes spend night hungry – but he stuck till the village became ODF. His village got the championship trophy in ODF olympics and he proudly shared that event. A girl prerak was so triggered that she actually stood at the site of open defecation and prevented villagers from the act. Many people would even fight with her, but she continued her work till the village became ODF. A sarpanch, who after making his own village ODF moved from village to village spreading the message, mentioned that he broke his functional septic tank toilet and constructed a twin-pit one, just to convince his village that a septic tank toilet is not better than a twin-pit. In MP rural areas, women bear  purdah (veil). 
(Clockwise: 1. Prerak tying rakhi to me; 2. Sarpanches in caps from ODF villages now motivate other villages; 3. Sudam Khade, Collector, Sehore, felicitating woman in yellow saree who belongs to yellow gang – they do kirtan every morning to dissuade open defecators; 4. sarpanch who broke his septic tank toilet to make a twin-pit one)
For Swachh Bharat, these women with veils, who do not otherwise come in the public, are active in the nigrani samitis ( early morning monitoring committees) and go out every morning to check that no one is defecating in the open.
(Nigrani Samiti women)
Mangesh, a highly educated person left his job in the metro city to work at grass-root levels. He associated with the NGO Samarthan that us doing great work in Sehore district of Madhya Pradesh. His organisation plays three critical roles – one they explain the governmental guideline, circular etc. in simple language to the people. Thus they explain to the people the programme, how it is to be achieved and the approach/ philosophy behind it in their own language. Secondly, they also bring back critical feedback to the district administration, so that they can further make necessary changes in the implementation strategy. Thirdly, they also suggest critical innovations,  arising from their working in the field to the district administration for considering scaling up.
Mangesh, Samarthan
Anganwadis are the place where swachhta habits are to be first inculcated. Presence of toilets in anganwadis are therefore a must. Sadly, there is yet no dedicated funding for these toilets. Many enterprising Collectors address this problem by shifting anganwadis in schools or in such private buildings where there is a toilet; however the problem needs a permanent solution through dedicated funding. It is an asset much more important than a road or a drain.
On the implementation side, within the broad understanding of “what works” each village/district/State may have to continuously evaluate, revaluate, respond and reform. The Swachhta campaign not only gets toilets built and reduces gandgi, it also challenges many social-power norms. It may not be wrong to look at Swachh Bharat as an important intervention for social cohesion – ODF bringing together people from all castes and communities in a village around a single desirable collective goal.
When Madhya Pradesh started ‘Maryada Abhyaan’, portraying sanitation as essential to protect women dignity, some organisations objected to the campaign depicting women going out and men looking at them. The State Government brought the prerak women working for the campaign face-to-face with those objecting; and the preraks made a strong case for continuing the campaign, confirming that women do face harassment when they go out, and therefore sanitation campaign rightly raises this issue. Leaving aside the merits of this for a while, what cannot be denied is that a) issues can no longer be swept under the carpet b) looking at sanitation as a behavioural issue necessitates touching and challenging ‘social norm’ chords and c) if they lead to purging of retrograde norms, sanitation would achieve much beyond cleanliness.
Much is said about defunct toilets. Surprisingly, the districts that are performing well ( champions) hardly bring up this issue. These districts seem to be addressing this issue at their level in a much more pragmatic and economic way. They profile these people, swap to include them in the eligible list by excluding other non genuine beneficiaries, or those who can construct on their own, arrange for local materials through village support, panchayat funds, some philanthropists etc to the extent required to make the toilet functional ( and no a necessary 12,000 rupees), bring in innovations – like gifting toilet to someone on Rakhi festival etc. and not look up to Government for funds for these. Besides the resource availability part, there is a certain merit in these local solutions, since this a) fosters collective spirit b) promotes innovation; but most importantly c) makes the process self-sustainable. In case we look up for funds for defunct toilets now, what guarantee is there that we will not be asking again for funds for toilets that may become defunct few years later ?
A programme of this magnitude needs dedicated people. The most important are the grass-root motivators. Harda/ MP has good examples of takung great care in recruiting them. Their experience is that government staff is not able to give much time, given their other duties, and while they can be in supportive role, the motivators should be non-governmental people, from villages. There seems to be some merit in this argument. The second thing is proper training and skilling of these motivators. A five day training module in community approaches is minimal. Ganesh shared these trainings were repeatedly carried out for different stakeholders, and also refresher trainings. They converted the five day module into a one day module for the government staff – anganwadi workers, teachers etc; while the longer module was for the swachh bharat motivators and for core team. Besides the grass root motivators, training is given to all grass root government functionaries, who play a supportive role.
As the hard core IPC triggeringw ork continues in villages, periodic campaigns are helpful to reenergise the momentum. Various festivals in India provide opportunity for this. The sense of district pride is also being appropriately used for the programme – with many districts branding their campaigns – ‘Good morning Sehore’, ‘Operation Malyudhha’ etc. There is political involvement; although programme can get a boost if they put more energies into it. Amongst various micro- village techniques, early morning follow-ups remain a very effective tool in pulling village out of open defecation; and in changing the perspective from toilet construction to ODF. Technology myths and preference for septic tanks remain – demonstration of construction of toilet in a village to villagers seems to be a useful way to dispel myths and clarify doubts about toilet construction. Involvement and contribution of women to the Swachh Bharat remains paramount.
Taking a cue from Harda, it may not be a bad idea to organise sports events for ODF villages. The prerak from Harda who worked in a tribal district shared with immense happiness how their village won the trophy. Sports can rejuvenate the team spirit, as well as the competitive  spirit – both boosters for the Swachhta campaign.
On the policy side, there is a definite merit in incentivising those villages that perform well in sanitation outcomes ( not just outputs!) The new World Bank project will do precisely that – assess performance of States against the outcomes of reduction in open defecation ( measured by access, usage and safety of technology),  sustainability of ODF status and solid/liquid waste management, assessed through an independent national annual rural sanitation survey on a sample basis. The Union budget has also announced prioritisation of all Centrally Sponsored Schemes in ODF villages – the States may also consider prioritising their schemes, as far as possible, in these villages.
The ODF villages have to be positively discriminated, ODF status should become aspirational, and be suitably rewarded. Rewards may not necessarily be monetary. In MP, a Kakaji, dared to stop Chief Minister’s vehicle and ask him why he was touring those villages which were still dirty, and not his village, where they had taken so much effort to make it ODF. The Chief Minister, in his next trip to the district, visited 27 ODF villages; and almost always attends programme of declaration of a Block as ODF. The Harda administration ( and many more) provide a VIP direct entry and access to villagers from ODF villages.
(Priority to ODF villagers to meet district officials)

Lessons from Singapore

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.

Behavioural economics and policy design for Swachh Bharat

Singapore recycles its water, including sewage water. When they realised they are a water deficient country, and that Malaysia was ever increasing the price of water given to Singapore, they had to find innovative ways of solving the issue. They thought of recycling water, including sewage water. There was a lot of debate on using recycled sewage water for drinking , not only amongst the laymen, but also amongst the scientists. The policy makers were sure that recycled water was safe and this solution had to be promoted. Over-information was not the solution – however much they clarified about its safety, counter opinions continued to surface. They realised that the real reason for public opinion against recycled water was disgust – the ‘yuck factor’; and they addressed precisely the same. On their National day, with full attention of the country and the world, the Prime Minister of Sungapore and his entire team drank recycled water to dispel doubts about its safety ! That was the turning point for people accepting recycled water.
 (Above slide from Prof Leong Ching, LKY School’s presentation; NeWater refers to recycled sewage water)
In India too, there are a lot of myths about having a toilet close to home – it would smell, it is dirty, it would overflow, how will we empty it etc. Robert Chambers had suggested a few months back that these myths can be dispelled if a VVIP in India were to empty the latrine pit ( that has been in use for many years to render excreta safe) and hold the converted manure in his hands. Having seen what Singapore authorities did with respect to dispelling the ‘yuck factor’ around recycled water, time for this idea may be ripe !
Singapore authorities also zoomed in on the fact that complex decisions that involve behavioural change cannot be determined by simplistic data choices but may require a detailed narrative analysis. For example, the question of recycled water is not just about what percentage of people accept it. It is also about a host of other factors that can be described as – Singaporeans generally want self-sufficiency in water, recycled water is cost-effective and innovative way for self sufficiency, it is important for global security etc. – seen in the context of all these, the ‘yuck factor’ gets diluted.
 (Narrative analysis in terms of behavioural analysis of use of recycled sewage water for drinking; slide taken from Prof Leong Ching, LKY School’s presentation)
Similarly, in the context of Swachh Bharat also, the question whether people prefer to go out for defecation is the wrong question, and does not describe the entire gamut of programme. Leaders and implementers of the programme must expand the narrative analysis of Swachh Bharat to – sanitation is closely linked with diarrhoea and child morbidity and mortality, India cannot afford to have thousands of her children die due to preventable illnesses like diarrhoea, cleanliness and hygiene contribute to health etc. This broad narrative analysis will put Swachh Bharat in comprehensive behavioural analysis, much beyond data on few parameters.
Policy design for any public issue necessitates appropriate problem identification in the first place.  For Swachh Bharat, the problem is open defecation and littering/ stagnant water. The rest of the things – lack of capacity, lack of desire, poor supply, lack of toilets, lack of resources, habit – can be causes; but not the main problem. So while we may get deeper into the causes, and sift and prioritise them, and address them, we cannot lose focus on what the original problem is. By corollary, our outcomes have to be necessarily measured by how well the problem is addressednot how well the causes are addressed.
Focus on ‘authorising environment’ and ‘managerial capacity’: The strategic triangle of public policy has three dimensions – ‘public value’, ‘authorising environment’ and ‘managerial capacity’. The ‘public value’ is drawn from appropriate outcomes and is obvious. The ‘authorising environment’ refers to adequate flow of authority and support from say, political masters. While it is usually taken for granted, and indeed at the national level, for Swachh Bharat, this is presently unprecedented, it may be useful to revaluate the same at the State/ district level and to continue to influence actors who are important and can significantly influence the programme . A talisman on A plus for this parameter can be, if the most important stakeholders such as the Chief Minister, for e.g., make a mention of Swachh Bharat on priority in their public speeches, and review it regularly with the Collectors. The third dimension, ‘managerial capacity’ is the single biggest challenge for Swachh Bharat and must remain top priority for States and districts – strengthening their teams and providing them requisite skills.
Who are our stakeholders? Shanmuga, CEO, Zilla Panchayat Harda, Madhya Pradesh rightly remarked that all citizens of Harda were their stakeholders for Swachh Harda ! At a managerial level, however, it may be important to categorise and list out all the stakeholders – so that no one is ignored/left out ( all hands on deck !) and so that communication strategies specific to stakeholders can be drawn-out. Since we have to reach out to many, small two-minute videos, carrying appropriate message may do the trick ! It is also important that information is pictorial, and one that people relate to closely. A hoarding of ‘pair of eyes’ ( stern eyes more effective) has been found to effectively deter a wrong-doer (?open-defecator).
Given the scale of problem, ‘smart’ solutions may have to be innovated. How does less effort yield greater result ? In Singapore, they adapted flush technology that automatically reduced water usage by 1/3rd. The water bills that go in Singapore contains a simple line – ” The average bill in your locality is …”, prompting those with higher bills to reduce their water usage ! How do we ‘frame’ and ‘brand’ Swachh Bharat, so that it ‘nudges’ people to be a part of it, so that having a ‘toilet’ becomes a ‘social norm’. Subsidies have not been found to be particularly effective in influencing behaviours – ‘nudges’ can do the trick! The books ‘Nudge’ by Richard Thaler or ‘Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think’ by Peter John explain the power of nudging, and it is for all the implementers to apply these principles smartly in the programme.
Participation in programme has to be made easier through administrative and financial simplification. Having a toilet should be the ‘default’ option ! Our housing scheme – Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – should have had an in-built provision for a toilet; alas Rural Development Department missed this important opportunity! There should be lower barriers to participation, with measures such as pre- filled forms, easy certificates/applications (wherever required) and supply-chain facilitation. The talisman is to keep oneself in the shoes of a villager, and then simplify the whole process. While giving choices is an important element of community centricity and must be continued, one may be cautious that there is no ‘choice overload’. In this context, circular by Chhattisgarh Government to promote twin pit latrine, and bar septic tank may be a good measure to nudge towards the right choice, and also escape various practical problems that beset a septic tank.
How do we effectively ‘anchor’ ODF ( open defecation free) status, and make it aspirational? Villagers from other villages may be taken on exposure visit to ideal  ODF villages, so that they feel it is possible. Natural leaders and sarpanches from villages who have made their villages ODF can be made to address their peers and decorated as Swachh Bharat ambassadors. The issue will have to be framed in a mental model that he can relate to easily such as stories of local champions who have done it.
The endowment effect in behavioural economics says that one values what one has more than what one does not have. Given this, he is likely to be influenced more by discussion on health of his child, or expenditure on health, or by appeal to his emotional brain; than by discussion on ‘toilets’ ! One is more averse to loss than to gain – again, this implies loss of health may be a more powerful behavioural change nudge than gain of an asset (toilet)!
What is the right timing for a person to spend on toilet ? Or occasion, so that he does it sooner rather than later ? For donation, it was found that donors could be nudged into donation when they were asked to donate a part of their annual income increase, than from their regular income. Can we then also nudge communities to spend when they typically have higher cash in hand, say after a harvest. Other occasions can also be used to ‘promote’ ODF events – such as Chhattisgarh recently used the pre-monsoon period to appeal to people to have ‘Sughar baarish’ – ‘clean rain’ – appealing to their sensitivity to difficulty in open defecation during rains and exhorting them to change that this monsoon by building toilets before the rains. These kind of promotions are used widely in the private sector – say ‘best buy’ offers in malls !
Last, but not the least, it may be useful to guard against things that may hamper achievement of results – while ‘posing’ that they are useful. One of these is ‘isomorphic mimicry’ – i.e. such interventions that give a false sense that things are happening, when they are not. Social media, though useful for cross sharing, may lead to false ‘feel good’ factor. The other factor to be guarded against is ‘preloading’ – creating too much pressure early on, without adequate preparation. This may lead to inappropriate results, and consequent despair.
Given the unique challenges of Swachh Bharat, the views expressed above are not absolute prescriptions, just some concepts that may be tried. At the end of the day, continuous trial and desire to win can be game clinchers.


Hands of majority of motivators in Fatehgarh Saheb rise to a question – ‘how many of you have taken shit in your hands’ ?

It is surprising. Hands rise without hesitation, with pride though. One would expect hands rise to holding a sweet in hand, their child in arms, or a precious thing, may be. But shit ?
Asked don’t they feel the disgust, they reply in negative. They say that this way, they are able to explain most convincingly the relation between shit, flies and food. A sarpanch ( village headman) seconds this – he says people get moved by this the most.
Places such as Fatehgarh Saheb are witnessing this change for the first time – a change where sanitation soldiers ( government officials, motivators etc.) are taking pride in their work. Reluctant to take on the shit-job earlier, they now feel that for the first time in their careers, people are treating them with respect, and they are getting the satisfaction of being part of real change. The villagers said they could not believe when these people said they would visit the village at 5 am in winters for nigrani – when they did, the village responded positively. Thousands will live for money, but millions will die for dignity and self-respect !
Punjab is a place with relatively high sanitation coverage. Prior to Swachh Bharat however, some men would not feel it odd to relieve themselves in the fields. One sarpanch said he was no exception. But now that he had been through the process and his village was ODF ( open defecation free), even if he was somewhere outside and needed to go for shit, he would hold on to find some public toilet in a Gurudwara or elsewhere, but not go outside! The villagers say motivators should continue to visit their village off and on to continue momentum.
Many of the motivators deployed here are either youth, selected through a screening or government officials at grass root level – a Junior engineer, pump operators etc. The junior engineer, unhappy when moved from water to toilet side, now proudly says he and his team have made one full block ODF. He also recounts difficulties encountered – a group of poor migrants from Rajasthan were not constructing, despite being given incentive, and forwarding lame excuses of lack of space etc. He caught hold of the one amongst them who was most adamant, and told him that a police complaint would be filed – upon which those people constructed. Another sarpanch mentioned that they actually levied a fine of Rs 2500 on a group of open defecators.
Work is starting with stopping open defecation, not constructing toilets ( which follow). Open defecators are told to cover their shit with soil, if they go out ( till they construct toilets). Motivators visit individually the houses of open defecators – women motivators are particularly effective since that shames the household.
Toilets are constructed/ got constructed by people, with government money flowing into their individual accounts. People are putting in their own funds (my toilet has to be better than my neighbour !) and constructing bathrooms along with toilets.
Some of the motivators are young girls. When someone asked them, how do their parents react to their leaving houses early mornings ( when it is still dark) for nigrani, one of them said – ‘we are not only triggering the villages, we are also influencing our parents !’
The programme is led in the district proactively by the DC ( Deputy Commissioner) S. Sangha. He has roped in all departments ( education, health etc.) , and taken political people on board. He says most of his meetings, irrespective of the subject, would start with the subject of open defecation and cleanliness. ‘ Jaisa raja, waisi praja’ ( Like king, like subjects) – the message from the top is quickly imbibed by all.
S. Jasbir Singh, Executive Engineer ( called Ex En sahebs in Punjab)’s designation is now ‘district sanitation officer’. In Punjab, the engineers working in the sanitation sector are now transforming into ‘social engineers’. The ‘union leaders’ are ably brought in the programme, their high energies channelised positively. As the government reaches the door step of people through this campaign, other issues of villages also tend to get solved better. An engineer said, when they went for ‘toilet work’ in the village, the village questioned them as to why the water supply scheme gave water for 1 hour only. The engineer looked at the whole issue – sought cooperation of the village; and the scheme is 24*7 today.
The programme in Punjab took off when the State Government got serious about it last year. Best officers were brought in to lead the programme. Mohhamad Ishfaq, a relatively junior in hierarchy, was made the State coordinator, given his impeccable sincerity, passion, hardwork and abilities. The State, with jugaad or otherwise, managed to pull along practical interventions with speed and scale – trainings were conducted across, existing cadres were mobilised, new motivators taken and given incentive linked with outcome, monitoring apps developed ( through engineering students at peanut price) to keep a check, convergence done with education department – books published for children with sanitation messages ( the close involvement of school children had a positive effect on overall education level as well as ascertained by the State through an independent Pratham Survey). The State improvised on the model of community approach ( in true spirit of flexibility) to suit their condition of high coverage. Demand generation and awareness were however taken as non – negotiable.
Fatehgarh Saheb is the place where two sahebzadas of Guru Gobind Singh ji gave supreme sacrifice. The poet, Maithillisharan Gupt has, on this incident has written:
Jis kul Jaati desh ke bachche 

de sakte hain balidan,
us desh ka vartman kuchh bhi ho

par bhavishya hai maha mahan”. His prophecy seems to be coming true.

There are challenges as well. The problem of kachra ( litter) and chhappar ( village ponds) ( both man- made ?) are staring in the face. On the shit issue too, one has to be watchful lest there should be slippage. The village leadership seems yet to take things in their hand and to reduce dependence on outside motivators. A collective feeling in the village has to take deeper roots to address other development issues.
However, the shift from pre-Swachh Bharat days, when the programme was contractor-driven with no focus on demand generation or community involvement is stark. It is not important where we stand; it is important the direction in which we move !

Name, shame; but not the children

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.

Self respect

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 !