Alok Arunam has a Masters in Engineering Design from IIT-Madras. He was completing a one-year liberal arts and leadership course as a Young India Fellow with Ashoka University when he heard about ZSBP. “It occurred to me that grassroot challenges are far difficult and messier than the neat problems articulated at my corporate job. It felt as if I was meant to be here,” he says. Alok signed up as a prerak and was deployed in Nagaur, Rajasthan in March 2017. With the help of the District Collector, Rajan Vishal, Alok drew up a plan to streamline processes at the back-end and set targets. The work was not easy. Field-level workers were wary of approaching villagers. “People threw stones at us and abused us when we tried to convince them to build and use toilets,” says Priyanka Rani, a member of the District Resource Group (DRG).
Alok re-trained and motivated the field workers and DRG team members to work closely with the block co-ordinators, gram sewaks and sarpanchs towards educating villagers about open defecation. The MIS was overhauled for more efficient data management. The number of toilets being built was monitored daily. Alok assisted the district administration in ensuring that the incentive payments reached beneficiaries on time. This was key to motivate villagers to build toilets in their homes. The campaign was strengthened by including a message about protecting the dignity of women and children through safe spaces for defecation. Emphasis was placed on the allied objectives of the mission such as menstrual hygiene management through the Chuppi Todo, Sayani Bano campaign, and personal hygiene through hand wash techniques under the Saaf Swachh HaathSwasthya Rahe Saath campaign. All of this helped the Niralo Nagaur campaign regain its momentum and the district to become ODF.