Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar at the flag off ceremony for the Bihar Gram Gaurav Yatra
Bihar: “By 2012, every home in Bihar will have a toilet,” said Mr Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of the North Indian state of Bihar, while launching the Bihar Gram Gaurav Yatra on January 29, 2009.
The objective of the yatra is to increase awareness of the importance of sanitation and hygiene and to make the improvement of these an integral part of the lives of the people of Bihar.
In an effort to create a people’s movement around the issue of improved sanitation, the Chief Minister flagged off the Bihar Gram Gaurav Yatra at the historical Fort grounds of Rajgrih. The yatra was also led from the front by Minister-in-charge, Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey.
The objective of the yatra is to increase awareness of the importance of sanitation and hygiene and to make the improvement of these an integral part of the lives of the people of Bihar. Partnering the Government in this milestone initiative is the Public Health Engineering Department of Government of Bihar, with support from UNICEF.
With the mandate to create a clean Bihar by 2012 the Government of Bihar plans to spend close to Rs. 14 billion on the mission, in addition to funds being made available under the national Total Sanitation Campaign. The scheme will serve both Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. “About 5.6 million APL families were found to have no latrines,” said Mr Kumar, adding that “our target is to ensure a toilet in every BPL and APL house in the state.” The Chief Minister claimed that by 2012, all villages in Bihar will be made Nirmal (clean) villages.
PHED Minister, Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, claimed that so far, 156 panchayats in Bihar have received the ‘Nirmal Gram’ Award, which acknowledges Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages, villages where the schools have exclusive toilets for girls, where anganwadis (pre-schools) have toilets and where village surroundings are clean and hygienic. The Government of Bihar will provide incentives to families to construct home toilets and is seeking people’s participation in the campaign to make it a mass movement for total sanitation and hygiene.
The Bihar Gram Gaurav Yatra will cover all 38 districts in the state, bringing 537 blocks; containing 8,054 panchayats, 16,000 villages, 16,000 schools and 16,000 anganwadi centres under its ambit. Each of the 8,054 panchayats will be visited by a team of eleven people including NGO representatives, a hand pump repair team, helpers and masons.
The mobilization effort is also backed by a massive communications campaign involving dozens of trucks and jeeps. While the trucks will be used for ferrying the 11-member teams and their spares and equipment, the jeeps are equipped with loudspeakers to criss-cross rural Bihar broadcasting audio messages on sanitation and hygiene.
The strategy is to first create awareness about sanitation in order to increase demand for toilet construction, followed by meeting the demand and then, lastly, encouraging people to use the toilets. The goal of creating awareness of sanitation and hygiene-related issues and demand for solutions is to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
“Practicing good sanitation is a pre-requisite for good health;” says S.N. Singh, Child Environment Specialist with UNICEF, Bihar. “Changes in people’s behaviour can only happen through a change in their mind sets. The proposed campaign, which involves everyone from policy makers to grass roots functionaries to the media, will help make our goal of a clean Bihar a reality.”