It was a mission to catch people with pants down, literally, as 54 officials from the Indore district panchayat spread out across nine villages in the early hours of Wednesday to verify the claims of these villages that they were open defecation free (ODF).
Braving the village dogs and armed with torches, the teams kept vigil in places where villagers usually went to relieve themselves in the morning.
Two villages failed to make the cut, one of them being Bachora, Depalpur janpad – the first village to be given the tag of Nirmal gram in the state in 2006 – and the other being Badoli Hoj, also under Depalpur janpad.
In both these villages the officials found people defecating in the open. One person was found in Bachora and three were found in Badoli Hoj.
Incidentally, the administration plans to make the entire Depalpur janpad open defecation free by the end of the current financial year.
On April 20, 2015, Hindustan Times had done a story pointing out that Bachora, the first Nirmal gram in the state, had fallen off its pedestal and that many Dalits in the village did not have toilets and were still defecating in the open.
The surprise checking has only authenticated what HT had written five months back.
District panchayat office superintendent Antim Dubey said 49 villages in the district had claimed that they were ODF and their claims had been verified at both the panchayat level and the janpad level.
“We (district panchayat) will give the final seal of approval that these villages are really ODF, and the teams are being led by district level officials.”
The villages that made the grade were village Umaria, Mhow janpad; village Ajnod, Sanver janpad; village Galonda, Depalpur janpad; village Morod, Indore janpad; village Mata Basedi, Sanver janpad; village Nevari, Depalpur janpad; and village Kawti, Mhow janpad.
Dubey said they were going to conduct random checks in all the 49 villages that had staked claim to be ODF.
Apart from the ODF tag, there is also cash incentive for the villages under the Ahilya Gram Puraskar. Cash awards of Rs 20 lakh, Rs 15 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively would be given to the first three panchayats that get the ODF tag and all the panchayats that end open defecation by October 2 would be given cash award of Rs 3 lakh each.
District panchayat CEO Ashish Singh said even though both the villages that failed the ODF test were from Depalpur, their plan to make the entire Depalpur janpad ODF by the end of the financial year was still on.
“Of the 49 villages that claimed ODF, 25 are from Depalpur. So percentage-wise it (two defaulting villages) is not that big. Now we will send motivators and talk to the errant individuals and find out why they were still defecating in the open, and give them all possible support,” Singh said.