Nadia’s open defecation-free campaign presented before NITI Aayog

Kolkata : A team of delegates from West Bengal’s Nadia district on Friday shared insights with the NITI Aayog on how community participation and constant monitoring helped the district achieve open-defecation free status and subsequently, the UN Public Service award.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently announced that Nadia is open defecation free (ODF) and ranks on top in the country in construction of individual toilets.

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The Nadia Zilla Parishad successfully implemented the ODF initiative called “Sabar Shouchagar” (toilet for all) by building nearly 3,50,000 toilets across the south Bengal district to combat the problem of open defecation, according to Abhirup Bose, secretary, of the parishad.

“We were invited to give a presentation on the campaign and share our experience at the first open seminar organised by NITI Aayog and Centre for Policy Research. The major outcomes which we stressed on were improved health indices, greater participation of women and increased livelihood opportunities,” Bose told IANS after the meeting in New Delhi.

He said NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar responded positively to the campaign and asked questions on the procedure adopted by the officials for executing it.

The team highlighted “political and administrative will, mobilization of women/children, strategic involvement of faith based organizations” as key factors in implementation.

“Team from Nadia district: Women were the ambassadors and agents for our movement,” NITI Aayog tweets read.

In addition, partnering with self-help groups for supply chain management worked very well, said Rajarshi Mitra, sub-divisional officer, Nadia, at the seminar.

Bose said the Nadia delegates also pointed out that administrators regularly visited the communities to ensure vigilante groups were accountable.

“We informed the CEO that the level of water borne diseases has gone down because of this initiative. Health related outcomes have been achieved,” Bose said.

In response to Khullar’s question on scaling up and replicating the Nadia model, the team said it is not easy.

“Mitra/Bose reply to S Khullar: Not an easy thing to do. Loads of variable -administrative, availability of water etc,” CPR India Urban tweeted.

Bose said the Nadia officials in the seminar emphasised on “behavioural changes through pressure groups” since construction toilets alone will not lead to change.

“Our focus is on sustaining the campaign and handing over it to the community. We discussed in details about the initiative and we received a good response,” Bose said.