The remote and nondescript village of Lahra, Nagla Akoli in Etah District of Uttar Pradesh has the distinction of becoming open defection free (ODF) in one single day. Far fetched as it may sound, it was true nevertheless. On 10th December, 2017, as many as 98 toilets were built to ensure that all the residents of the village had access to sanitation.
The idea was generated by officials of the district including District Magistrate (DM) Etah, Amit Kishore, UN WSSCC DC, Vijay Verma, and DPRO, Dhananjay Jaiswal, with a view to taking the Swachh Bharat Mission into a fast-track mode,. The entire exercise showcased how people’s awareness and official support can be clubbed together to create history.
Two days before the execution of the one day campaign, a meticulous plan was made. They had to first choose the most remote and challenging village. Lahra, Nagla Akoli which lies in Marehra constituency with a population of around 500 seemed perfect for the plan. Thereafter, the pradhan of the village, Rajveer Singh was given a list of requirements that he had to arrange for including bricks, cement, sand, chips, hardware and gates.
Simultaneously, trained masons of the block were summoned for a meeting and they were delighted to be a part of such a plan. To assist the masons, safai karmcharis (cleaners) were also called in; while the secretaries were trained to use the BHIM app.
In the run up to the event, enthusiasm amidst the village community was palpable as many wanted to witness the change that was happening. Many of them volunteered to collectively cook a meal of khichdi for all and each house contributed whatever they could for the village feast – grain, ghee, pulses, vegetables, etc. As far as digging of the soak pit was concerned, it was done a day before when most of the material had reached their village.
The day of the campaign dawned with much anticipation as the village took on a festive atmosphere. Everyone in the village did their best to make the village look beautiful. While young girls cleaned the roads, women gathered waste materials even as the small children did what they could to help. Incidentally, the number of men in the village is relatively less as many of them work in the cities. But their absence was hardly noticed as all others gathered to perform the tasks as if it was someone’s wedding.
When the masons arrived, they were given a short orientation and allotted houses where they were to build toilets. Each of them had a safai karamchari to assist. Soon, the village was bustling with activity as materials such as cement, rural pans, and bricks were being carried to and from homes as toilet construction started at 10 am.
Understanding the importance of Izzat Ghat, people helped the masons as much as they could. They kept aside their regular work, including cooking and participated in the building work. The doors of toilets were painted with the words ‘Izzat ghar, darwaza band to bimari band’ and other attractive motifs.
Manpower deployed for the execution of the project included 98 trained masons, 78 safai karamcharis, 9 secretaries, 6 technical assistants, 3 block coordinators, 1 DPC, 1 ADO, 1 BDO, 5 computer operators making a total of 201. Following construction, a pooja was organized in celebration in which all district officials participated, followed by partaking of khichdi.
Finally, with the use of BHIM APP the first installment amount of Rs.6000 was transferred directly to the beneficiaries’ accounts. The DM also sanctioned 30 solar lights for the village and disclosed plans for solid waste management and water treatment in the village.
More than anything else, the campaign demonstrated that when an entire community comes together for a common cause of toilet construction, total sanitation is not far away and can be achieved.