Early every Friday morning, hundreds of employees working in various government departments in Peddapalli district of Telangana fan out in the 263 villages of the district and by 6 am they are ready to donate their labour. Each employee — from the lowest ranking ones to the district collector — already knows what he or she has to do; their tasks are identified and allocated by every Thursday. They start work by 6 am and by 9.30 report back to their respective offices. This practice — called “Swachh Shukravar’’ (Clean Friday) — wherein government employees and villagers get together to clean up the villages, clear garbage, dig soak pits, build community toilets, and plant trees, has been adopted by the Peddapalli district and it is this that won it the first place award in the national Swachh Sarvekshan 2019 (which was the world’s largest cleanliness survey) conducted recently.
Peddapalli has achieved this distinction — of being designated the cleanest district in the country — by a combination of good governance initiatives, people’s participation, and prudent use of funds available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme.
The district has not only topped the cleanliness rankings but also, thanks to the proper sanitation measures, brought down the number of dengue cases this year to 43 from 271 that were reported in 2018. This at a time when in rest of Telangana, including Hyderabad, more than 5,000 dengue cases have been reported this season.
District Collector A Sri Devasena says that apart from an extensive drive to build individual toilets in the villages, the administration launched special drives to build common soak pits and village garbage dumping yards.
What is Swachh Shukravar
The Swachh Shukravar (or Clean Friday) is an enterprising initiative by the district administration of Peddapalli and it essentially entails engaging all government officials – regardless of their rank and posting – to spare a few hours every Friday and give their labour towards cleaning the villages of the district. Not only does this energise the official machinery to achieve its cleanliness targets but also motivates the common public to maintain those standards.
“The common soak pits were constructed where water stagnation was noticed which led to mosquito breeding and therefore spread of diseases like dengue,’’ says P Prem Kumar, consultant to the district collector and a former Joint Director in Industries Department. “Households letting out water onto the roads or unauthorised drains was a big problem so we covered up the drains and planted trees on them while providing the households proper drainage connections,” says Prem Kumar as he details the various changes in the district.
The district administration also established garbage collection yards in all the 263 villages. “A village sanitation committee under the local sarpanch oversees segregation of plastic, dry, and wet waste. While advising villagers to reduce the use of plastic we have entrusted the task of collecting plastic waste to women of Self Help Groups. They collect plastic by paying Rs 2 per kg from the villages and sell it for Rs 4 per kg to a granules manufacturing unit in Peddapalli town. We want to totally ban the use of plastic in the coming days. Women of SHGs have started a unit at Khanapur to manufacture cotton bags of various sizes for carrying groceries etc with a grant of Rs 25 lakhs from PMEGP,’’ an official says.
To fund much of the sanitation work, cleanliness campaign and digging holes for plantation and afforestation drives, the district effectively used funds allotted under the MGNREGS. The 262 community toilets were built at a cost of Rs 4.30 crore.
Innovatively using the services of 1.20 lakh women organised in SHGs, the district administration gives five saplings to each woman on any festival to be planted. On the occasion of Varalakshmi vrath festival recently more than 5 lakh saplings were planted.
Almost every household has a woman involved in an SHG and by engaging them and other villagers in the committees for sanitation, greenery, cleanliness campaign, officials say they are getting the villagers’ participation without which this change would not be possible.