Loyola College students convince dhaba owners to build loos

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At least three of the many dhabas (roadside eateries) on NH 43 which winds its way through Jashpur of Chhattisgarh and frequented by interstate travelers will soon be building toilets to cater to their customers.  Their decision could be attributed to the initiative of students from Loyola College, Kunkuri who have taken up the issue in support of Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin.

Rohit Lakra and his friends, who are final year B.Com students of Loyola College call themselves V-D-YUVA, meaning ‘we the youth.’  Their mission is to contribute to upliftment of poor people in the villages and bring about positive change.

“For about a year now we have organized blood donation camps, celebrated all festivals with children of orphanages; and supported environmental causes,” Lakra said.

Recently, they approached the District Collector of Jashpur, Priyanka Shukla offering their assistance.  The district has been carrying out various awareness building programmes to convince people to adopt good sanitation practices and build and use toilets. During the discussion that followed, the issue of dhabas, most of which run without toilets was brought up.

“We realized that convincing dhaba owners to build toilets was something we students were capable of doing.  And that could be our contribution to the PM’s Swachh Bharat Mission,” he said.

Thereafter, about six students went to about 11 dhabas that line NH-43 near Jashpur, and talked about the need to build toilets to cater to their customers; offering each of them two potted plants.  While a few of them were welcoming and receptive of the idea, there were others who made excuses such as wanting to wait for the rainy season to end before beginning construction of toilets.  Owner of Johnny Dhaba in Patra Toli, Mr. Ikka – one of the few who had a toilet congratulated the students for their effort and promised to build another so that there would be separate toilets for men and women. A few others too responded positively and also agreed to keep their surroundings clean.

The owners will soon come to realize that their business would expand with more visitors stopping by their dhaba, if it has clean restroom facilities.

According to Lakri, they chose this initiative for several reasons.  People who enter Jashpur only visit the dhabas and it would be shameful if the district is unable to offer travelers such basic facilities.  Secondly, as youth, they felt it was their duty to support the noble SBM-G mission.  Also, having a toilet symbolizes respect for all.

Situated about 500 kms from Raipur, Jashpur has predominately an indigenous community that belongs to particularly vulnerable tribal group.  The DC said that sanitation is a major concern; its negligence having caused several instances of diarrhea outbreak earlier.  The remote district comprises 8 blocks of which nearly two blocks are ODF.  With the pace at which work is being carried out which includes various innovative activities such as Swachhta Balveer and Swachhta Bands, it is hoped that by December-31 the entire district would be free of open defecation.

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