A Signify nudge that ramped up sanitation density in Darbhanga
A revolutionary ‘nudge’ has charged up Darbhanga’s marginalized sections of the society to construct individual household toilets. Two blocks in Darbhanga, namely Keoti and Benipur are in the news for ushering in an unprecedented surge in the construction of toilets following FINISH Society and Darbhanga administration’s efforts to increase sanitation density in the region. However, little did they realize that Signify Foundation’s decision to incentivize residents who had built toilets would change the eco-system so rapidly. Signify decided to distribute 30,000 CFL bulbs (two for each household) and 1000 solar lamps (for the differently abled and children) to beneficiaries who had constructed their individual household toilets and therein lies the seed to this success story. As of date (20/10/2020) as many as 28548 bulbs and 909 solar lamps have been distributed (The rise in sanitation density is given in the table at the end of the case study (Table. 1).
Keoti is a town located 12 kms north from the Darbhanga district headquarters. People depend on agriculture or else work as migrant labour by going to other states.
Benipur is an assembly constituency in Darbhanga district. It is 30 km east of Darbhanga city. and the state highway 56 connects Benipur to Darbhanga City. Neighboring villages are Mahinam, Balha, Benipur, Karhari, Nandapatti, Phohddi and Ashapur. Benipur Block is the heart of Benipur because it houses the second largest market in the area.
Geeta Devi, the mukhiya (village head) of gram panchayat Lalganj block, Keoti, puts it in perspective when she says: “The CFL and solar lights distribution acted both as a trigger and a nudge for the people of our village. When it was being distributed in our area, a wave of happiness ran through our people. And for the very first time in our lives, we felt that we have done a great job by constructing an individual leach pit household toilet. The people who had not built the toilet, also felt that they had made a grave mistake by not constructing one and in the process lost the opportunity to get solar lamps and CFL bulbs as incentives.”
This change in thinking helped Geeta Devi to motivate her people to build toilets. “One of the other advantages is that we are combating diseases and the filth in the monsoon season. I also talked about the advantages of constructing a household toilet to all those who have not made it.”
Echoing her sentiments, Ms Nitu Nutan Jha, Mukhiya of Mokampur, Benipur block says all the people of the village have built toilets themselves and have arranged for money by taking a loan. “The villagers built toilets either by mortgaging something or by taking money from the moneylender on interest or by using other means. After making the toilets, some of the beneficiaries have received Rs.12000 from the Lohia Swachh Bihar Abhiyan (LSBA) while others are still to receive it.”
Ms Khairul Nisha, Mukhiya of Muria Gram Panchayat says: “Most villagers belong to the SC or OBC category and earlier thought constructing a toilet will serve no real purpose. Once the CFL bulbs were being given free to villagers, I saw a huge opportunity to motivate the people of my area. I went to every single house with FINISH Society representative to motivate them about the health advantages of building a toilet. Seeing the wave of enthusiasm among the people that they too could get free CFL bulbs and solar lamps, I also convened a meeting with the ward members and encouraged them to further motivate the people. This approach worked wonders,” she adds.
“The distribution of CFL bulbs encouraged the people to believe that toilets are really necessary and they made a mistake by not making one earlier. When we talked to those who had built toilets they said that now there is no darkness in their lives. So many people in our village who had not used CFL bulbs earlier are now using it proudly when they go to use the toilets. The solar lamps, on the other hand act as great facilitators for children to study at home and for housewives to cook food in the evenings,” shares . Mohammad Gulrez, a differently abled motivator in Benipur block. Gulrez adds that the villagers kept the Swachh Bharat Mission movement going even during the lockdown. “We called for a meeting during the lockdown. Most of the migrant workers who had returned to the village due to the Covid 19 pandemic were largely masons. We motivated them and they in turn, agreed to construct the toilets. The incentive provided by free distribution of CFL bulbs and solar lamps acted as a phenomenal booster. It not only motivated villagers but also contributed in ensuring cleanliness in the village. This is because people were now using their toilets regularly since they had bulbs in their toilets. It also helped them understand that if we do something good then some incentive will come our way to improve our quality of life.”
More importantly, migrant workers who had returned from the cities were all habitual of using toilets. “Seeing this, we motivated them to build the toilets here too. But after seeing the distribution of free CFLs they became more motivated and work got underway in full swing,” points out Zubaida Khatoon, a motivator and widow who belongs to Benipur block.
She says more impetus was provided by local TV news channels which were running stories and interviewing beneficiaries . “The news channels and cleanliness volunteers repeatedly requested all of us to build a toilet.”
“The enthusiasm and positive energy generated by the free distribution of CFL bulbs and solar lamps could be best articulated by Zubeida who when asked as to how she got the money to build a toilet says: “I have earned money from working hard as a laborer. I then borrowed some more money after mortgaging my jewelery. After all, kuchh pane ke liye, kuchh khona padta hai (meaning you have to lose something in order to gain something, meaning there is no gain without pain).”
Table 1- Sanitation numbers before and after Signify project
Total toilet completed before signify project
Toilet completed after Signify project
Toilet construction on process after Signify project