Kolkata: The Panchayat and Rural Development department has chalked out a unique programme, engaging folk artistes to create awareness among the people about the activities after declaration of open defecation free (ODF).
Nine districts in the state have become open defection free. They are Nadia, North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East Midnapore, Cooch Behar, East Burdwan and West Burdwan.
Five more districts, namely Birbhum, Malda, Murshidabad, South Dinajpur and West Midnapore, will be declared ODF districts shortly. This is for the first time when the folk artistes are being used in the campaign.
Now, the big question is maintenance of the toilets, along with other issues like menstrual hygiene management, hand washing to avoid infection, management of plastic and solid waste management.
To create awareness among the rural populace, the Panchayat and Rural Development department has been using the folk art forms like baul, kirtan, bhaowaiah, jhumur and chhau dance.
It may be mentioned that after coming to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had set up Lok Prasar Prakalpa to help the folk artistes financially and revive the old art forms. The folk artistes are given monthly stipends and are given regular programmes by the state government.
A five-day workshop was held recently in Howrah, where more than 100 folk artistes took part. Dibyendu Sarkar, commissioner, Panchayat and Rural Development department, additional district magistrate (Zilla Parishad) and other senior officials of the Howrah district administration took part in the workshop as well.
Akshay Kumar Routh, director general (sanitation), ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, who was touring in Kolkata, also visited the workshop and lauded the unique effort.
The folk artistes were given the theme and they composed songs and sung them. A group from North 24-Parganas composed a kirtan on how non-use of toilets had brought disaster to a family and how later, the family members fought together to overcome the menace. The Panchayat and Rural Development department, along with UNICEF, will prepare state-level templates, which will be sent to the districts.
After toilets are constructed in rural houses, it is now compulsory to maintain them. The families have to make the necessary repairs, or else defecation in the open will resume.
Use of plastic has become a major menace in the rural areas. Many animals, including livestock like cows and goats, are dying because of plastic. When wastes, mainly vegetables, are thrown out in the open wrapped in plastic, the animals not only consume the wastes but also the plastic.
Songs have been composed, urging people to minimise the use of plastic. People will be made aware about segregation of solid waste at source, hand washing to avoid infection and other issues related to basic hygiene.