Open Defecation Free Villages : Creating and sustaining Nirmal Grams through community participation in Jharkhand

Submitted by Hindi on Tue, 01/31/2017 - 16:52
Social Sector Service Delivery Good Practices Resource Book 2015, NITI Aayog Government of India

The Government of Jharkhand has successfully established a workable strategy for creating and sustaining Nirmal Grams (clean villages) through a people-centric, participatory and demand-driven approach. This initiative aims to create Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages through the construction of a functional toilet in every household. Having been successfully piloted in Gadri village, the initiative is being scaled up across the state, with convergence and community involvement as its underlying principles. The initiative has created a ripple effect as neighbouring villages have emulated the process and the State government has upscaled the initiative, beginning with the direct transfer of Rs 30.46 crore to the Village Water and Sanitation Committees of various Panchayats.


Sanitation has emerged as a major issue since the 2011 Census threw up glaring data on India’s “missing toilets”. With only 35% of the rural population using functional toilets, the data highlighted sanitation as one of the biggest social sector service delivery challenges in India. These figures came as a surprise as the Ministry for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, had estimated the figure to be approximately 65%. The gap in estimation of rural population using functional toilets was even wider for the state of Jharkhand, with divergent figures of 8% (Census data) and 42% (Government of Jharkhand data). Figure 1 depicts the difference between the data from the Census of 2011, Government of India, and data as shown on the website of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Government of Jharkhand (GoJ).

The gap between the two sets of data revealed that the toilets that were being recorded on paper were not operational on the ground, triggering a critical reassessment of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), the sanitation programme initiated by the Government ofIndia in 1999. The learning from TSC was incorporated into the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), launched in 2012 to correct this ‘slip back’ phenomenon. Renewed emphasis was placed on having a ‘community-led, people-centred, demand-driven’ approach that couldachieve ‘sustainability’. Focus was placed on bringing about behaviour change. Recognising the need for a new approach, DDWS, GoJ, in collaboration with UNICEF, embarked upon an introspective exercise to identify the lacunae in TSC implementation and to draft a new strategy. The new strategy was sensitive to contextual problems, such as abundance of forests, lack of communication infrastructure and perennial water sources and low population density.

Toilet coverage in rural Jharkhand - Comparison of DDWS and Census 2011 data demonstrating


The DDWS, GoJ, seeks to establish a workable implementation strategy for creating and sustaining Nirmal Grams through community involvement. The aim is to enhance sustainable sanitation solutions to 80% of the rural households, and rural piped water supply to 45% of the rural households by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan period (2017). The guiding principles in this mission are innovation and convergence.

Transition from TSC to NBAGadri - Open Defecation Free village

Key Stakeholders

The initiative is being run by the DDWS, Government of Jharkhand, and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the basis of the recommendations of various nationalflagship programmes like NBA, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). The primary and secondary stakeholders are local civil society organisations, suppliers of goods, masons, village water sanitation committee and the community.

Key stakeholders in the Open Defecation

Implementation Strategy

The DDWS has adapted NBA recommendations to the context of the State to develop its own unique strategy for the creation of ODF villages. The delivery mechanisms for ODF villages in Jharkhand are the following: The Panchayats have been empowered to implement NBA and the National Rural Drinking Water Programme; every revenue village has a Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) with 12 members (comprising 50% women) with a bank account; the VWSC is the implementing agency; the Mukhiya (village head) is the president of VWSC and the Jal Sahiya (village-level foot soldier of NBA) is the treasurer; and NBA funds are transferred to VWSC. The loan for toilet construction is provided to VWSC and not to individual families. Likewise, the subsidy accruing to the community is made available to the VWSC. Also, Block Resource Centres (BRCs) are set up to facilitate and monitor the activities of the initiative. The eligible NGOs in the district areselected after a screening at the State level to manage BRCs. Depending upon the size of the block, a BRC comprises one Block Coordinator and two or three Cluster Coordinators. They engage with the Panchayats from the initial stages for planning and implementing theprogramme. After the achievement of the ODF status, they continue their constant engagement with VWSC to ensure the continued sustainability of the programme.

The strategy for implementation of the State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM) is six-fold: 1) devolving power to the Gram Panchayat; 2) adopting a saturation approach in implementation, considering the entire village as one unit; 3) using the ‘revolving funds’ available in NBA guidelines to give loan to the village community to initiate the process of ODF village1; 4) seeking community contributions as matching share of funds made available as loan; 5) subsidy accruing to eligible families calculated only after the village achieves ODF status and transferred to the VWSC after adjusting with loan amount; and6) identifying a distinct post-construction phase to ensure sustainability of the ODF village. The strategy involves inter-departmental convergence between the Departments of education, social welfare, health, Panchayats and rural development.

The stress on demand generation and behaviour change has been a priority from the very inception of the initiative. Formal elections to the Panchayats (in 2010 after a gap of 32 years) and more than 50% women representation in the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) strengthened the process of rolling out this strategy. The consensus building exercise is extensive, ranging from demand generation to ensuring contribution in cash or kind for the toilets to be constructed. Once 100% community consensus is generated, the focus is on building toilets for every family. The saturation approach ensures that the ‘slip back’ cases(families who had earlier had a toilet under TSC but are currently not using one) are not discussed in isolation. After community consensus on ODF, the BRCs organise mason training (often women masons are part of this) and construct a demonstration toilet to enhance community involvement.

The issue of subsidy is never mentioned upfront to ensure that subsidy is not projected as an attraction for toilet construction. Rather, issues of women’s dignity, health and convenience are highlighted and the quintessential need for 100% coverage (comprehensive public health security is achieved only through 100% coverage) of households with toilet facilities is emphasised. Subsidy is discussed only after achieving the ODF status. The totalsum of subsidy money accruing to the village is adjusted with the loan amount and handed over to the VWSC if the subsidy amount is in excess of the loan amount. If the loan amount is in excess of the subsidy amount, the balance is paid back by the VWSC in 18 monthlyinstallments. Post-construction, reinforced community interactions continue to ensure use of facilities for at least one year. Also, mini piped water supply schemes are then implemented in revenue villages, again using the saturation approach, i.e., for every household to have atap connection.

.The key innovations of this approach are: use of the saturation approach, which makes the community and not the individual household the focus of the initiative; use of revolving funds with matching contributions from the community; active role of Panchayats; outsourcing of BRC management to NGOs; presence of a Jal Sahiya in every village; minimising the subsidies loop; continued community engagement in the post-construction phase; and priority for piped water supply to ODF villages.

With a view to facilitating better monitoring and keeping communication lines open, DDWS has developed its own website ( which is updated regularly. A call centre has been established under the e-Governance initiative to address sanitation issues in Panchayats and to disseminate information on sanitation to Mukhiyas and Jal Sahiyas through SMS. Transparency and efficiency are enhanced by using core banking services to transfer NBA funds directly to the Panchayat’s VWSC account. Further, a real-time monitoring system is placed at the SWSM’s headquarter with a field-based mobile input facility from field locations, thereby enabling real-time monitoring of programmes, infrastructure and assets related to sanitation and allowing villagers to verify the progress by feeding their comments in the local language.

Implementation strategy for ODF

Resources Utilised

The ODF initiative is implemented by utilising the existing resources of the NBA. As convergence is a priority, resources of the NRLM and MGNREGA are utilised in the implementation of the programme. Convergence between the various government departments and civil society organisations has been institutionalised to ensureoptimal use of resources.

The option of utilising corporate social responsibility (CSR) resources for organising mason trainings has also been explored by involving UltraTech Cement to sponsorthese trainings.


Positive ripple effect in achieving ODF status: The successful pilot at Gadri village has created a ripple effect. Three other villages in the same Panchayat are in the process of achieving ODF status soon, as the construction of toilets for every household in these villages is in its final stages. Work is continuing in all six villages of the Nehalu Kadadia Panchayat. Many other Panchayats have also started the process and as many as four villages are nearing the ODF process as of 8th February 2014.

Scaling up of initiative to cover entire state, supported by convergence in funding: The success of Gadri has encouraged the government to scale up this initiative in the rest of the state, with special focus on another five Panchayats in four districts. A proposal for constructing 1.5 lakh toilets under MGNREGA has been approved. The most significant impact is the direct transfer of Rs. 30.46 crore to the VWSC accounts of various Panchayats. The DDWS has proposed to construct 2-2.5 lakh toilets in Jharkhand, thereby putting sanitation high on the state agenda. Functional and funding convergence with NRLM is expected to further strengthen VWSCs/ Panchayats and the women community to push water and sanitation initiatives at the grassroots.

Additional infrastructural measures: Meanwhile, Gadri is now working on the piped water supply initiative, for which various sanctions have been obtained. As a follow-up on the ODF status, the BRC in Gadri has also undertaken the task of covering drains and digging pits for household water discharge.

People speak

Key Challenges

The implementation rate was slow initially due to the adoption of the saturation approach and use of loans through revolving funds. Also, multiple approaches are evident on the ground, with some districts advancing subsidies to VWSCs or not following the saturation approach, creating differences in implementation patterns.

Pilot project – Gadri village

The pilot project was implemented in Gadri village in Bero block, Ranchi district. The village has 70 households. Awareness generation was critical to make the village inhabitants aware of the link between unsanitary practices like open defecationand disease. The Information, Education and Communication (IEC) strategy used was organic and involved regular and intensive interaction between the BRCs and the village community, explaining the need for toilets, hazards of open defecation and generating a genuine demand for toilets. The consensus generated in the village was primarily the result of this sort of focussed and continuous IEC. The second step of the IEC strategy was the demonstration toilet, which was constructed during a practical masons’ training within the village. The masons’ training generated curiosity in the village and demonstrated what the finished product would look like. This reasserted the value of toilets in the community. The Jal Sahiya and local self-help groups, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), Anganwadi Workers (AWWs), teachers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) were involved in awareness and consensus generation. Interestingly, such convergence was made possible as the leadership was with the mukhiya (village head). Gadri village achieved ODF status on May 14, 2013, and has now become a role model for neighbouring villages.

The pilot at Gadri village has highlighted the need for focus on sustainability, which was the most glaring shortcoming of previous experiences. It has also shown the need for making a provision to provide funds to PRIs from the revolving fund in NBA; bringing ‘slip-back’ toilets within the ambit of NBA; and viewing water and sanitation as inputsfor community empowerment, hence calling for convergence between National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) and NBA funds.

Pilot project – Gadri villageThe slow release of MGNREGA scheme funds, dependent as it is on the initiative of the district administration, has posed a challenge. Also, the MGNREGA scheme fund distribution does not follow the saturation approach Importantly, monitoring indicators are still focussed on counting toilets instead of ODF villages.

Replicability and Sustainability

The preliminary focus of this initiative is to generate a genuine demand for toilets and not be “a programme for counting toilets owned by none”. Its strategic focus, then, makes it a community-led, demand-driven initiative. Although the prerequisite of obtaining 100% consent and raising the community’s contribution involves hard work and takes time, the awareness generated and the mobilisation of the community in the initial phase as well as continuing serious engagement with the community through BRCs and VWSCs post-ODF status ensures that the behaviour change is sustainable.

VWSC meeting in progress in GadriThe initiative is also highly replicable as it harnesses the resources of national programmes like NBA, NRLM and MGNREGA and utilises the plan funds of DDWS. The Gadri experience has shown that the process of community involvement and sustainable behaviour change may be slow but it brings success. The eagerness with which the surrounding villages have replicated the model shows that the goal of achieving ODF is not impossible. Interest has been generated outside the State as well. An Agha Khan Foundation team from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, has already undertaken an exposure visit to Jharkhand.


The Gadri pilot has started a process of change in Jharkhand, and its success has resulted in the strategy being scaled up in the rest of the State. This scaling up has brought forth new challenges. With more than a thousand villages in hilly areas with accessibility issues, the DDWS is looking at pre-fabricated toilets as an alternative. The Department is also encouraging sociotechnical innovation in sanitation; aerobic bio-toilets have already been piloted and anaerobic bio-toilets will be piloted next. Further, following the Sulabh model, pay-and-use community toilets have been experimented with in rural areas and, more importantly, in marketplaces.

Attempts are also being made to involve more than 25 corporate houses (through CSR funds) in sanitation initiatives within the State. The World Toilet Day 2014 was celebrated with focus on PRI representatives to take up community-based WASH (water, sanitationand hygiene) programmes. The most inspiring aspect of the World Toilet Day was the declaration made by the Chief Minister of Jharkhand that candidates without a household toilet shall not be allowed to contest Panchayat elections.

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