‘Update (26 June 2015): Dr P B Salim received United Nations Public Services Award, 2015 at a glittering ceremony at Medellin, Colombia.
Update (21 June 2015): Dr P B Salim spoke at the prestigious ‘TEDx Walled City’ programme organized by UNICEF. He told an elite audience at Stein Auditorium at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on how converted his ‘ideas to action’.
Nadia’ is one among the eighteen districts of West Bengal with Bangladesh as its eastern border. With 3917 sq. km in area, it has a population of 5168488 and a density of 1300/sq.km. Approximately 78% people live in rural areas and has a literacy rate of 75%. Around 24% of the people are landless laborers and 8% are marginal farmers.
Nadia ranked 9th among the 18 districts in terms of the human development index according to Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. More than 27% of the population used to defecate in open as against 4% of adjoining Bangladesh with almost same socio-economic-cultural situation.
Dr PB Salim is a bureaucrat turned veterinarian from Kerala. A graduate in Veterinary Science and post graduate in Animal Breeding and Genetics, Dr P B Salim joined Indian Administrative Service (West Bengal cadre) in September 2001. He had a brief stint of service as District Collector, Kannur in 2009 and then moved on to Kozhikkode.
The ‘Sparsam’ project (Sustainable Project for Poverty alleviation and Reformation of the Sea-belt areas of Malabar), an employment scheme for women victims of 2002/2003 communal riots in Marad, won the hearts of entire Keralites. The ‘People’s Collector’ led Kozhikkode to be the first plastic waste-free district in the country.
Back to West Bengal, he took charge of Nadia District on 17 March 2012. As a seasoned officer with vast experience working for the underprivileged, backward and minority sections of society, Dr PB Salim could quickly understand the needs of Nadia.
His commitment to the people changed the administration network of Nadia. And very soon Nadia became a role model in areas of revenue collection, MNREGA, education, agriculture, rural electricity, tourism, mid-day meal schemes, minority scholarships
and the like. He alone could mobilize people to plant 13 lakh saplings when 17000 trees were cut for extending the National Highway -34. Earlier in 2013 itself, the Chief Minister of West Bengal appreciated the efforts of the District administration to make Nadia a front runner in terms of development and progress.
The dismal sanitation and poor hygienic conditions was of high priority and needed action. Destiny paved the way to Dr PB Salim to trigger the movement and Nadia to be
declared as the first Open Defecation Free
district. The movement was flagged off on 2 October 2013 and was named ‘Sabar Souchagar‘ (Toilet for All). (Probably, the launch of this movement might have prompted the Government of West Bengal to initiate a statewide movement ‘Mission Nirmal Bangla’ on 19th November 2013, the World Toilet Day).
‘Sabar shouchagar’ called for extensive preparation, elaborate propaganda and explicit execution. As the first step, an exhaustive survey on the toilet facilities among the families was conducted from December 2013 to January 2014. This door to door survey was carried out with the help of ASHA workers. The survey found 3.09 lakh households without proper toilet facilities.
Training sessions were conducted to empower
the functionaries of District, Blocks and Panchayats who will in turn promote interaction at the base level. This was followed by orientation programme to members of women self help groups and Anganwadi workers to make the public aware of the mission. NGOs, educational institutions, school students and young people were roped in to spread the message of this great movement.
The leaders of different religions and communities too were motivated to move along with the mission and all media resources were effectively utilized to give adequate publicity. Marathon run with the young and old and the longest human chain of 122.3 Kms with participation of 2.17 lakh people were some of the mass movements that fetched support and involvement of the people of the entire district.
Women from self help groups were selected and trained to do masonry works for the construction of toilets. Women were running sanitation stores as part of the mission. 355609 toilets were constructed at house holds and institutions in less than 18 months. The silent support of women who were so far embarrassed over the age old public defecation was of immense value in the successful completion of the project.
There had to be a dreamer to visualize the entire scenario. An efficient planner should have been there to chalk out every minute detail. All the activities needed a hard working coordinator. A communicator to the core was a bare minimum necessity to take the people from every walk of life to line up for a common cause. A seasoned diplomat alone could resolve the clash of ideas, different ideologies, political rivalries and warring factions in the long run to the victory stand. And only one person could play all the roles and it was the District Magistrate of Nadia District, Dr P B Salim. IAS who had immense faith in the power of people.
So Nadia was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) District on 30th April 2015, the day West Bengal celebrated ‘Nirmal Bangla Diwas’ (Clean Bengal Day). And the celebrations followed. The efforts never went unnoticed. The movement received the Chief Minister’s Award of Excellence on 15th August 2014. The ‘Sabar Shouchagar‘ movement bagged the SKOCH Gold Award for being the best project in the country and Dr PB Salim received the honor on 20th September 2014 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
The District Administration also received the HUDCO Award (2014-15) for best practices to improve the living environment for transforming Nadia to an Open Defecation Free District. UK based ‘Loughborough University will felicitate the architects of the project at the 38th WEDC (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services) International conference in London in July 2015 for being ‘an inspiring district level model for eliminating open defecation in India’. And the prestigious ‘United Nations Public Services Award for 2015’ now goes to ‘Sabar Shouchagar‘. This project was selected from among the multiple entries from 187 countries. The award will be handed over by UN secretary General on 23rd June 2015 at Medelin, Republic of Columbia.
Thank you, Dr PB Salim for making all veterinarians proud.