A cluster of tiny hamlets in Jharkhand’s Seraikela-Kharsawan district has earned the distinction of becoming the first panchayat in the state to end the practice of open defecation, officials said on Monday.
District administration officials admitted that the achievement is all the more sweet in context of the state’s embarrassing distinction of being ranked one in the country in open defecation with 92.4 percent rural population going for the unhygienic practice, according to the 2011 census.
Representatives of Chhotagamgharia panchayat and villagers were felicitated recently for the achievement, the officials added.
Panchayat head Budheshwar Sardas said under the Centre’s Nirmal Bharat Mission, the administration constructed 218 toilets for each family of the panchayat, around 130 km from capital Ranchi.
While the villagers in the panchayat are farmers, many people support their families by working in small-scale industries in the district, which shares the border with West Bengal and Odisha.
The district administration gave credit to panchayat representatives for taking the initiative to develop the area as a model panchayat.
Sardas said around a year back, villagers started a campaign to stop open defecation and groups of village youth blew whistles when they noticed anybody going towards the fields to defecate in the open.
“The embarrassed locals soon stopped practicing open defecation,” he added.
After an appeal by panchayat representatives, the public health engineering department constructed the toilets under the MGNREGA.
“We are planning to start campaigning for proper drainage, garbage collection system and other sanitation-related works in the panchayat,” Sardas said.
Block development officer (BDO) of Gamharia Laxmi Narayan Kishor said the administration would now replicate the project in other projects like Dumra, Burudih and Dugni.
Under the Swachch Bharat Mission, Jharkhand plans to construct 3 lakh toilets in 600 panchayats of the state in 2015-16, officials said.