HAMIRPUR (HP)—In village after village of Himachal Pradesh, mahila mandals are unleashing a silent revolution for change. Women have to walk a long distance to relieve themselves in open. Today, 15 years later, State has a different story to tell the outside world. Thanks to ‘Toilet Revolution’ of the state government undercurrents of change can be witnessed in village after village of the mountaineous state of Himachal Pradesh. From Neen panchayat of Basantpur Block of district Shimla that became the first ODF panchayat in the State to district Hamirpur listed among the ten top districts in sanitation in the country, the state has traversed a long but successful journey that takes it from ’apple state’ to ‘Nirmal state.’
Suman’s concerns are like so many girls those constitute 45 per cent of school going where they do not have access to toilets and relieve themselves in the open, the State is addressing her concerns through ‘Toilet Revolution.’ Surprisingly, issue of most critical sanitation condition has never been an electoral plank for any political party in the State. “The remarkable turnaround in rural household toilet coverage has been scripted by the innovative policies of the state government, aggressive involvement of gram panchayats as social responsibility.
Efforts have started paying dividends’, if findings of a study commissioned by the Institute of Development Studies on the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) are of any indication. Data of state government and the institute more or less are the same. The official of the state government revealed that the state has 3243 gram panchayats, of these 2821 have been declared open defecation free.
The Institute has conducted a survey in the State to find out the extent of toilet coverage for four segments– households, schools, anganwari centres and public places. It also studied the extent of behavior change in the practice of open defecation; status of solid waste and liquid waste management in the state.
The survey states that toilet coverage in schools tops the list with 98 per cent schools have toilets compared to 62 per cent five years ago followed by rural households with 87 per cent toilet coverage thus registering an increase of 46 per cent during the past five years. On the other hand, 75 per cent Anganwaris Centres have toilet coverage with 29 per cent increase compared to previous five years. In case of toilet coverage for public places it is 85 per cent that pegs 29 per cent increase in the past five years, adds the report.
In 2010, about 58 per cent rural households practiced open defecation which has declined to 12 per cent now. It is also stated that among nirmal gram panchayats, still two per cent open defecation is prevalent against 45 per cent earlier while in case of ODF gram panchayats the percentage was 9 per cent against 60 per cent and in the remaining gram panchayats the percentage was 37 per cent compared to 70 per cent five years ago.
The official further stated that until the beginning of 2006, less than one per cent of the target of 57000 household toilets has been achieved over a period of five yearly in the state. In early 2007, the government has adopted a new strategy to secure better rural sanitation results such as introduction of a holistic concept of sanitation; a demand-oriented; outcome based approach to generate awareness of need for sanitation especially rural areas by involving local bodies for sustainable delivery of services.
The state has 20,690 villages and till mid-70s no one in rural areas of the State knew about ‘toilet.’ By 2001 toilet coverage has increased to 20 per cent which was increased to 28 per cent in 2004. The department of Drinking Water, Sanitation, GOI, has made a documentary “From Dreams to Reality” about the success stories of ODF Panchayats of the State.
Another success story of the state has been documented in the second volume of Compendium of best practices in rural sanitation “Pathway to Success” put together by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, GOI with assistance of Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) of the World Bank
While talking to the project officer, DRDA, Hamirpur revealed that the district has 229 gram panchayats and all were declared ODF and over 95 per cent households have toilet coverage. The agency had also achieved its target of constructing 60 public toilets in the district, he added. He said that every village sanitation committee has made it mandatory not to defecate in open. Mahila mandals have been one of the main driving forces to achieve the status of ‘Nirmal State’, he admitted. A principal of a senior secondary school said that almost 100 per cent have toilet coverage having separate toilets for girls and boys. “Construction of toilets is not sufficient we are also see their maintenance in healthy and hygienic condition,” added he.
There is visible behavioral change among the people of state and fully encompass the concept of creating a healthy and hygienic Himachal Pradesh.