Mahatma Gandhi’s three monkeys represent ‘see, speak, hear no evil’. A fourth one has been added in a T-shirt design used in Harda district of Madhya Pradesh – no defecation in the open.
On the eve of India’s 69th Independence Day, the district administration declared 216 gram panchayats open defecation-free (ODF). To mark the occasion, a 16-km human chain was formed by students, government employees, school teachers and residents on Sunday – all wearing the infamous T-shirt.
“We were inspired by our collector Shrikant Banoth who wears this T-shirt often and has also posted it as his WhatsApp display picture,” a government official said. “Then additional district magistrate (ADM) and panchayat chief executive officer also started wearing it.”
The district administration has imposed a fine of `500 on anyone found defecating in the open to put an end to the problem which has been rampant in Harda until a few years ago.
“There is also a reward of `100 to anyone who informs the district administration about anyone defecating in the open in our district so that there is awareness amongst people that this practice has to be stopped and avoided at any cost,” Banoth said.
Madhya Pradesh has one of the highest rates of open defecation (71.2%) and the country’s highest infant mortality rate (54 per 1000 live births). The regional UNICEF has said that diseases brewing from unclean conditions, such as diarrhoea, are among the main killers of children.
Time and again Harda has been appreciated for its unique schemes to make it open defecation-free. In 2014, Madhya Pradesh government named its campaign against open defecation ‘Operation Mal Yuddha’ which was widely followed in Harda.
In 2015, a competition was launched by the Harda district administration that rewarded men who ensure their sisters have access to clean toilets as part of efforts to discourage the habit of defecating in the open.
The competition “Bhai No 1” was a unique initiative appreciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in radio talk ‘Mann Ki Baat’.