Women proudly point towards a toilet in Rajasthan’s Bhanwari village
Jaipur, Aug. 22: In the space of a month, a remote Rajasthan village has taken a tiny step towards fulfilling the Prime Minister’s dream of a Swachh Bharat, free of open defecation and open drains.
But Bhanwari village in Rajasthan’s Pali district, about 328km from Jaipur, has done it without the Centre’s help and fast enough to beat the rains.
Between May and June this year, Bhanwari has transformed itself into one of the first open defecation-free (ODF) villages in the state, thanks to the initiative of a handful of villagers and the backing of a local think tank.
The village — it has a population of about 6,000 engaged chiefly in growing jowar and bajra — now has a toilet in each of its 1,042 households, built by the people almost entirely with their savings and raw material loaned by shopkeepers.
The villagers have hardly availed themselves of funds under the Swachh Bharat scheme, a mass mission that aims at building over 800 million toilets and setting up modern sewage systems over the next five years. The project would be Narendra Modi’s tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary will be celebrated in 2019.
Instead, they worked on the motivation provided by a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan team who urged them to ensure their women did not have to go out into the fields under cover of darkness to relieve themselves, Pali BDO Mohit Dave said.
“A Swachh Bharat Abhiyan team from Delhi and the village administration motivated the people to build toilets in every household so that no one, women especially, would have to go out in the open early in the morning or late at night for their ablutions,” Dave said.
“We could not provide them money initially but we made them think. The motivation worked and the villagers collected money from among themselves and started building toilets for every house. At least 1,042 toilets have been built from May to June 2014.”
Dalaram Meghwal, the village sarpanch, beamed with pride as he spoke. “The villagers took a pledge of turning the village into an ODF zone in a meeting on May 26 and never looked back.”
Once the villagers set their mind to it, they wanted the work done before the rains started. “It is such a relief now that toilets have been built,” Sunita Singh, a villager, said.
“Earlier we woke up around 3am, so that it was dark and we could relieve ourselves. During the rainy season, the flooded fields often had snakes and insects. We had to be doubly careful.”
Kanaram Patel, a clerk working for the village administration, said: “We asked shopkeepers to provide raw material on loan. Villagers put together whatever money they had saved up and started work.”
A village committee set up to oversee the project helped some 13 BPL households unable to contribute any money. Sarpanch Meghwal said: “We required between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000 to build each toilet.”
Patel said only 108 people had so far got funds under the Swachh Bharat scheme. “But the rest are not complaining.”
According to the 2011 census, 53.1 per cent households in India do not have toilets. For rural India, the figure is a staggering 69.3 per cent.