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Quality WASH training is only given to state level officials while training at lower levels is sub-standard and sparse.

Filthy community toilet in Odisha

Panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), bureaucrats and engineers are the three legs of the WASH stool in Odisha. PRI members and bureaucrats are responsible for providing sanitation through demand creation, community motivation and release of subsidies. The engineers are responsible for setting up and repairing drinking water supply sources. Training and orientation sessions are provided to these three constituents based on perceived roles and responsibilities. The idea of training them is to improve development outcomes; however, it seems the effect has been exactly the opposite at the lower levels.

State level training opportunities

At the state level, only senior officials and engineers are provided with information on water supply schemes and sanitation programmes. This happens through workshops and meetings with technical agencies such as UNICEF and WaterAid, the Administrative Staff College of India, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, the institutes of technology and universities. The latter includes the KIIT School of Rural Management (KSRM). The State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) also organises occasional orientation sessions.

Only state level officials and engineers are given quality training opportunities outside the state and abroad. While the training options for engineers are limited. This is a cause for concern, said engineers Bhagaban Sahu and SE Siba Narayan Barik.

SIRD has 300 master trainers on all aspects of rural development. Only a few of them are WASH master trainers. Technical agencies such as UNICEF and UNDP have developed WASH manuals for trainers to use. The trainers, according to SIRD’s Assistant Director Amita Patra, are sent to districts for training on demand. SIRD has its own training calendar. NGOs provide logistic support but no content for training sessions.

Programme directors of the district rural development authorities, district collectors-magistrates and the district Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) team consultants get trained by these master trainers, either in situ or in Bhubaneswar at the SIRD’s campus. They have also been given two-day sessions on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Engineers at the district level, said Ganjam Executive Engineer Mohapatra, are also trained at Bhubaneswar at KSRM’s sister engineering college, or at institutes of technology. District PRI members get a 7-day course on budget management, planning and monitoring at SIRD.

As the main training institute for bureaucrats and PRI members from districts, blocks and panchayats, SIRD’s mandate is to orient all 108,000 PRI members to make gram panchayat development plans (GPDPs) within months of their election. It conducts 3-day courses to this effect that provide an overview of government schemes, sources of finance and expected results. WASH comprises only one session.

To supplement this, given that a third of the state and central finance commission funds allotted to panchayats must be spent on WASH, SIRD has a one-day session on water and sanitation. The course material is basic, covering steps to ensure sanitation coverage, how to maintain handpumps and hygiene.

Training for the lower level

At the block level, engineers, officers and PRI members are trained on implementation, finance and monitoring for WASH. The two junior engineers in each block tasked with WASH were provided with manuals and training to repair handpumps when they joined service. There are no refresher courses for them.

For sanitation, each district has a cadre of several hundred motivators trained over five days on CLTS. These motivators are selected and trained once, after which they are deputed to villages to make them open defection free within three months. District resource persons and the SBM team train them on CLTS and technical aspects of twin leach pit toilets.

The SIRD course material mentions the 10 Sustainable Development Goals linked to programmes to be run by panchayats. However, these are not integrated into the learning material leaving their interpretation open to trainers and recipients.

At the district and lower levels, the quality and quantity of WASH training is wanting. Quality depends on the competence of individual trainers and quantity is based on demand. Officials provide additional information to village leaders and village officials at weekly meetings in block headquarters, or monthly review meetings in district headquarters.

None of those responsible for WASH, including the technical support agencies, had any material or training on life-cycle costs or service delivery approaches. This appears to be a major gap. Training is aimed at fulfilling the technical target, such as toilet construction or ensuring a functional water point within 250 m. At no level were engineers competent to prepare or review detailed project reports of mega piped water schemes the state is implementing. This is left to the management consultants, KPMG, who have won the bid. The understanding is they will handle the process and there are terms of reference. There is no urgency to build local capacity and there are no schedules for preventive maintenance.

In villages, self-employed mechanics recruited by the RWSS are responsible for minor repairs of handpumps for aboveground faults. Major repairs, i.e., below ground level, are referred to the junior engineer who forwards it to the block development officer for approval. Panchayats pay RWSS INR 1500 per handpump per year for maintenance. Mechanics are paid INR 1600 and earn extra from any job. Junior engineers train them on the job once after recruitment and thereafter, every few years; there is no regular schedule or curriculum for the job. Mechanics have a schedule of preventive maintenance to check pulleys, levers and washers monthly. One mechanic manages 20-30 handpumps.

All the training recipients at lower levels – junior engineers, village leaders, motivators, block functionaries – felt training was sub-standard and sparse. They wanted better and more detailed information, more frequent refreshers and some way to monitor their own performance as that would help them improve their service.

The major piece missing from training for bureaucrats and engineers is how to deal with people in the course of their work. This is the sole responsibility of PRI members. For their part, PRI members are provided with an overview of making GPDPs and must approach bureaucrats and engineers for technical support. Instead of capacitating each leg of the service delivery system, training in Odisha has led to a culture of inter-dependence that is not conducive to providing efficient and sustainable WASH services.

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