With more than 1.14 lakh villages, 61 districts and three states — Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim — having been declared open defecation free (ODF) across India under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the sanitation achievement no longer calls for tom-tomming.
But, Kapasi village in Balod district of Chhattisgarh, which was declared the first ODF village in the district, deserves to be talked about as it has done things differently.
The village has taken the help of CCTV cameras to stop people from defecating in the open.
Habitual offenders are first counselled. And, if that fails, a Rs 500 fine is slapped on a person who’s caught on camera in the act
And of course, it’s worked. The village is scattered with CCTV cameras and people have just stopped defecating in the open because nobody in their right mind wants to be caught on camera pants down!
For the incorrigible and for habitual offenders, the village has a two-pronged response. They are first counselled. And, if that fails, a Rs 500 fine is slapped on a person who’s caught on camera in the act. Clearly, people don’t want to pay the fine and are steering clear of open defecation.
Kapasi has happily embraced a digital way of life — in education, in sanitation and also to secure the village against crime.
Nothing that happens in Kapasi escapes the electronic eye. The move to put Kapasi under CCTV surveillance was made after unidentified thieves robbed two temples in the village in 2016, says village headman Lekhram Pritam.
Kapasi has happily embraced a digital way of life — in education, in sanitation and also to secure the village against crime. Nothing that happens in the village escapes the electronic eye
“We decided to install CCTVs. All of us contributed money to buy the cameras,” says Pritam. To begin with, the villagers bought six cameras and two computers. Later, they added nine more cameras to the arsenal. The total project cost was Rs 2.5 lakh, and it was funded by the entire village.
The move paid off. Crime fell to zero, and a sense of safety and security prevailed in the village. And, by way of bonus, Kapasi became ODF.
“Kapasi has about 1,500 residents. Without the cameras, it would’ve been impossible to keep an eye on everyone heading for the bushes, bottle in hand,” says Pritam. “Today, no one dares defecate in the open because they’d be embarrassed if they were caught on camera,” he adds.
A team of villagers controls the cameras from four control rooms. Bhikhan Ram Devangan, a 30-year-old Kapasi resident, is one of those tasked to monitor the CCTV screens in the control room. The cameras are armed with night vision, and the images are very clear.
“We no longer patrol the village or worry about who is defecating in the open. We do that sitting right here in the control room,” says Devangan. “The village is divided into eight wards. The four control rooms monitor two wards each. The result is in front of everyone to see. Kapasi now has a toilet in every home,” he adds.
The village has formed women’s group to sensitise the women in the village about the ills of ODF; they also monitor the camera operations once in a while.
The gram panchayat has formed a team to ensure that video feed is not leaked out and no one can target or embarrass villagers caught on camera.
The village has developed a reward system to encourage villagers to report those who defecate in the open — you can get a reward of Rs 100 per report.
In another such novel idea to control open defecation, the Nadia district administration and a few gram panchayats in West Bengal came up with the idea of a ‘wall of shame’, on which the names and photographs of those who defecate in the open are pasted on a village wall.
The gram panchayat has formed a team to ensure that video feed is not leaked out and no one can target or embarrass villagers caught on camera
India has over six lakh villages (Census 2011) and open defecation poses a huge sanitation problem for the country, besides embarrassing it on the global stage. A Government of India press note claimed that by October 2, 2016 over 2.5 crore toilets were constructed in rural India, and 35 districts were declared ODF. However, according to the latest National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report (2015) more than half — 52.1% — of India still defecates in the open.
The rest of India could take a leaf out of Kapasi’s book to change toilet behaviour.
The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Kishor is a Balod, Chhattisgarh-based independent reporter and a member of101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.