Aanganwadi worker assists children to pick up sanitation habits in Raj Vihir village. The village has been declared as the Open Defecation Free village and won the Nirmal Gram Puraskar instituted under Total Sanitation Campaign.
By Vidya Kulkarni
NANDURBAR, 5 October 2010 - An erstwhile board warning against open defecation and charging fine for those who disoblige stands at the entrance of Raj Vihir, a village with 2056 population in Taloda in Nandurbar district. As earnest calls by Gram Panchayat in its sanitation drive was got an ear, villagers opted for consensus than coercion for changing their long time practice of using open spaces to defecate.
Raj Vihir received recognition as the Open Defecation Free village in 2007-2008 that made them eligible to receive national award Nirmal Gram Puraskar instituted under Total Sanitation Campaign in the same year. Two years later the village still has maintained its clean and hygienic status showing deep inculcation of a most significant behavioral change. Incidentally Nandurbar is one of the most backward areas on major social and development indictors in Maharashtra, which makes the village’s success even more significant.
Nanubai Padvi, the village Sarpanch, along with Kisan Pawra, the Gramsevak (village secretary) received the award and congratulatory certificate by the President. According to middle-aged Nanubai, who has been born and brought up here, village sanitation was not a major concern in past. “Things were different as we were ignorant about it,” admits Nanubai adding that the change in customary practices has been a gradual process spanning almost a decade.
Her predecessor Rohidas Padvi headed Grampanchayat for two terms and initiated Clean Village Campaign (Sant Gadge Baba Abhiyan) promoted by the State Government in 2001. The village ranked second in the block in their first attempt and obtained the first rank in subsequent year in 2002-03. Both these awards having cash incentives were useful in undertaking village development and also inspired the Gram Panchayat to apply more to get a district level award.
Around this time the village came in contact with Manav Vikas Sanstha, NGO working with UNICEF and was exposed to micro-planning process, which gave a solid boost to village sanitation drive. “We were able to mobilize the community, especially the youth and women by forming their groups. Ten self-help-groups were formed in that period. These SHGs and the youth became a strong work force to further sanitation plan,” recalls Rohidas. Besides mobilization the village also benefitted in terms of information and exposure that enabled them to take systematic steps to achieve their goal and earned first prize at the district level in the CVC in 2004-05.
With this award the village was already half-way through to getting recognition at the national level. In a span of two years, from 2005-2007, Raj Vihir worked to achieve complete sanitation and also other allied developments ranging from waste to waste-water management. Presently there are 3 community toilet units, each with 8 toilets; 2 for women and 1 for men. All have water facility and are well maintained. A number of villagers have built individual units as well.
Gram Panchayat has also implemented a drinking water scheme that has eased up physical efforts for fetching water for daily use. In all 9 hand pumps have been situated in all key spots in the village, so that water is commonly available and easily accessible. The villagers also observed a practice of cleaning common places and roads in the village once a week. School and Aanganwadi toilets were also built by 2007 and it is ensured that they are used and maintained properly.
Raj Vihir is one among a handful of villages in the block with NGP and a model for others. “A number of neighboring villages visit us and seek our advice to develop our village,” tells Rohidas who is all willing to extend helping hand to others.