Mind over matter
Always one to volunteer for social developmental activities, the Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak (ZSBP) programme was just the platform for Mir Anayatullah (Anayat), 30, to serve the community and participate in the local administrative system. After completing his MBA course from the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Awantipora, he taught for three years at a local college before signing up as a prerak. Initially deployed in Budgam in March 2017, Anayat was transferred to Kargil in August to work towards making it the first ODF (open defecation free) district in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
During winters, temperatures dip to subzero levels in Kargil and the terrain is covered with snow. This posed some unusual challenges. Conventional toilets do not work in winters as the water in the pan freezes, which doesn’t allow faecal matter to pass into pits. Local residents use ‘dry latrines’, which do not fit into the idea of modern sanitation, but are suitable for Kargil’s harsh winters. Another challenge for the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) team was that while 80 percent of Kargil’s households are concentrated in a small area, the rest are spread over large distances across formidable terrain. Braving the elements Anayat had the support of village-level workers and a committed district panchayat officer to create awareness around core SBM objectives — emphasising on health, hygiene and social problems related to open defecation. But this wasn’t getting desired results. Anayat sought the help of Roots, a local sustainable tourism enterprise that creates livelihoods through guided tours and homestays for tourists. Together, they convinced villagers that their unsanitary methods were demeaning to their guests, and reflected poorly on the Kashmiri culture and heritage. The approach worked well, and more people came forward to build toilets. Geo-tagging of built toilets under extreme weather conditions was another difficult task, “On a single day we geo-tagged 21 homes, many at over 15,000 feet,” remembers Anayat. Kargil became 100 percent ODF by October 2017. Though its people continue to use dry latrines in winters, they also have regular toilets in their homes for use during the rest of the year.
A different stretch
Back in Budgam in October 2017, Anayat was confronted with a different set of problems. The local SBM team wasn’t motivated enough, and had been functioning without direction. Two out of five households in the district hadn’t been included in the list of beneficiaries for the incentive due to anomalies in data during the 2012 baseline survey. To make matters worse, many village Sarpanchs had resigned en masse due to growing political unrest and volatility in the state, leaving a vacuum in the village administration across the district. Anayat galvanised educated youth to help convey SBM goals to Budgam’s residents. Since the locals were more comfortable with Urdu, messages were modified accordingly: Swachh Bharat was re-coined as Saaf Shafa Bharat (neat and clean India) and a slogan ‘Safai aadha imaan hai’ was created, (roughly translated as, cleanliness is next to godliness). Anayat also took the help of the Imams (clerics) to spread the message of good sanitation habits. All this created a wider impact, with over 58 percent households in Budgam’s villages
now having toilets. There is a shared sense of purpose with the local community contributing financially to those who can’t afford to build toilets or were excluded from the BLS list. “I feel happy that we could build toilets for those who were not even included as beneficiaries,” says Anayat. On a personal level too, the experience has been empowering; Anayat says he has learnt a lot about how government machinery works, and about subjects like rural sanitation
and solid waste management. He has shared his knowledge with other departments of the district administration. In December 2017, Anayat, along with the other preraks in J&K, was invited by the Chief Minister’s Office to suggest solid waste management solutions in Gulmarg. In February 2018, Anayat was deputed to the SBM’s Jammu office, and has been working as a ‘state prerak’ overseeing the Mission’s progress for J&K. While he misses ground-level action, Anayat is happy that this has brought him closer to his dream of being a change-maker for his state.
Impact in numbers:
Till August 2017: 80%
Till October 2017: 100% (declared ODF)
Till March 2017: 27%
Till February 2018: 58%
Number of toilets built:
Till August 2017: 12,880
Till October 2017: 16,100
Till March 2017: 25,423
Till February 2018: 54,275