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Clean sweep

At 24 years, Vibhore Maheshwari has learnt a lot more as a Tata Trusts ZSBP in the past seven months than his peers in the corporate world can hope to. An engineer who graduated from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology in Delhi in 2015, he worked with Deloitte in Mumbai for a year-and-a-half, before being inspired by others who had chucked their jobs to work for social development. Tata Trusts’ ZSBP programme, with its unique alignment with the government’s sanitation goals, was the perfect opportunity and he took it. “Joining an NGO would have allowed me to create limited social impact, and unlike the ZSBP, it wouldn’t be backed by governmental support and resources,” he says. Joining as a prerak in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, in May 2017, Vibhore tried to understand why villages in this district continued to lag behind on the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) goal to make India open defecation free (ODF). “Open defecation is more a social problem than about a lack of resources,” he explains. “People in Hathras have mobile phones, motorcycles, pucca homes, and they spend lavishly on marriages and other social occasions. But they still don’t understand the importance of building toilets inside their homes.”
This called for a creative approach to convey the programme’s message. The Hathras ZSBP team designed and rolled a series of engaging initiatives to build awareness and societal pressure on people regarding open defecation and its ill-effects on their health and dignity. The importance of building toilets in homes was the eventual call-to-action in all activities. Among these were a Rakhi ki Laaj event on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan to felicitate brothers who gift toilets to their sisters, display of colourfully designed toilets in melas (village fairs), an ODF Cricket League, and a Diwali dinner hosted by the Hathras District Magistrate for Gram Pradhans of villages that had been declared ODF. Pressure was created in more unconventional ways such as giving children coloured stamps in school — green for those who used toilets and red for the others — to encourage them to convey the message at home. The results of these innovative ideas began to show, soon enough. By December 2017, 165 villages in Hathras district had been declared ODF, with over 50,000 toilets built. With the preraks’ help, the district administration is currently helping build 430 toilets per day as the programme grows in its reach in the region. Going the extra mile Vibhore admits this has been an unusually challenging yet rewarding role, quite unlike his brief corporate stint. “The day of a prerak begins as early as 4 am. We go for morning follow-ups where we confront people who are coordinators, and the incentive (protsahan rashi) given to beneficiaries are made on time, has also been a key focus area. All this has helped build villagers’ trust in the programme and contributed to its renewed success. Vibhore lists two areas that are critical in making a village open defecation free: “The trigerring activities through community engagement processes should be effective, and the Pradhans should be motivated. If the Pradhans are motivated, they would motivate other Pradhans to follow up with the village folk to build toilets", he says.
Impact in numbers:
1) Number of Gram Panchayats in Hathras declared ODF:
- Till May 2017:    2
- Till Dec 2017: 165
2) No. of toilets constructed in Hathras district:
- Till May 2017: 30,000
- Till Dec 2017: 50,000