Mehmooda, 45, just shows up in the manicured lawns of Panchayat office in south Kashmir's Shopian district.
While adjusting her chequered scarf, she hurriedly sitsamong a smattering gathering of men and women. As a Panchayat official holds amicrophone in his hand and begins his speech, Mehmooda is all ears.
After merely 25 minutes into the speech, Mehmooda forms anopinion: "We should fight the scourge of open defecation. It is really agrave concern". The programme is about giving people a grounding about thesustainability of the ODF(Open Defecation Free) under the Swach Bharat Mission(Gramin).
Since July 1, the government officials have been visitingthe rural areas and holding a flurry of meetings with the villagers in thisregard.
"We even visit the very far off places and try to reachout to as many villages as possible," says Malik Tariq Ahmad, DistrictPanchayat Officer, Shopian.
Malik adds that information, education and communication onthe ODF are the three core objectives of the programme. "We have alsoroped in many female resource persons to generate awareness about thecleanliness and sustainability of the ODF among the children and women",Malik says.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Swach Bharat Missionin 2014 and set October 2019 as the deadline for achieving the target of ODFIndia. The subsequent sustainability of ODF is one of the main goals of themission. On July 13, 2019, the government launched ODF Plus with the aim ofsustaining the ODF programme and to take up solid and liquid management.
Shopian is one of the first districts that was declared OpenDefecation Free last year. A total of 29417 Individual Household Latrines(IHHL) and 30 Community Sanitary Complexes (CSC) were made in various Panchayatsegments of the district bringing the level of open defecation to a bareminimum.
"You could yourself see the change. You can't find thehuman excreta littering the streets any more in the villages here" says Malik.
Many women from other far off areas of the districtincluding Resh Nagri, Jamnagri and Kanjiullar hamlets said that a behaviouralchange was important to maintain the sustainability of the ODF.
"This is the main takeaway of this ongoing awareness programme,"a woman from Kanjiullar said.
Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Dr Owais Ahmed said that theadministration received an overwhelming response to the programme.
"Our villages are Open Defecation Free and now we areworking hard to achieve the sustainability of this mission," he said.