By Anita, Hanisha, and Shashank Devra
Sanitation issues in villages continue to be a significant concern. In many rural areas, inadequate access to proper sanitation facilities poses serious health risks and hampers overall development. Villages in Nuh, Haryana, were facing similar issues, but collective action on the part of citizens trained under the Village Leadership School paved the way for better sanitation. They said in one voice, “We have done it!” taking pride in their action, which has facelifted their villages from filthy to cleaner streets. Here is a story of collective action at work.
Village Leadership School members resolve sanitation problems
Badangaka village, located 20 kilometers from Nuh, the district headquarters, was long suffering from a choked drainage system and the absence of a sanitation worker. As a result, rain and dirty water from households created puddles of water in the village streets, leading to filth, foul odor, and the spread of waterborne diseases. The villagers had no idea how to solve the problem.
A key focal point of Village Leadership School (VLS) sessions is to engage people in their development. This is done by asking villagers to identify their priorities in village development and list what needs to be done. Sanitation often comes up as a priority area. Select community members are identified, mobilized, and brought together on a platform. Monthly sessions under the year-long VLS training provide information about government programs, which prepare these selected community leaders to effectively engage with government departments to improve access to these programs.
During one of the VLS sessions, the villagers discussed the sanitation problem, which needed urgent attention, and how for a long time nothing had been done to improve the situation. The field assistant from Sehgal Foundation informed them about the Chief Minister (CM) Window helpline. CM Window is a mechanism for tracking and resolving complaints in Haryana that was implemented first on December 25, 2014, covering the entire district and all departments of Haryana.
Mubin, a VLS member, together with other VLS members, raised the issue to the CM Window in September 2022. The very next month, the sanitation worker in the village was regularized, and the village’s sanitation condition improved.
The group, led by Mubin, shares how effective use of information moved things and made the concerned department responsive to addressing the sanitation issues in the village.
Qutabgarh village is located 10 kilometers away from the district headquarters in Nuh, Haryana. Here the two most frequently used streets were damaged for a long time, which also resulted in sewage water collecting there. People had a difficult time moving along these roads, and water logging and filth caused a plethora of problems in their surrounding areas. Community members say, “We raised this problem with the local authorities and the Block Development Office (BDO) several times, but it remained unaddressed.”
In October 2022, the VLS group prepared a complaint signed by community members and sent it to the block development officer and the CM Window helpline. This resulted in the local authorities recognizing the urgency of the problem, and the rebuilding of the roads began forty-five days after the complaint was filed. By December 2022, the repair of the streets was completed.
A VLS member stated, “Our community was facing numerous challenges as the streets were becoming unusable, but thanks to the information assistance about CM Window, we have been able to address this situation.”
Improving sanitation in villages is crucial for ensuring better health, reducing the burden of diseases, and fostering sustainable development. It requires a comprehensive approach involving awareness building and community participation to bring about lasting change and improve the quality of life in rural areas.
(The initiative has been supported under a CSR-supported project implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation)
(Story by Anita and Hanisha, field assistants, and Shashank Devra, program lead, Local Participation and Sustainability)