Pradeep Dimri mounted his horse, taking his place of honour in the wedding procession (Baraat) as it made its way to the marriage hall. The air was rife with excitement and anticipation, even as women in their glittering costumes and men sporting celebratory turbans danced to the light of brightly lit lanterns. The entourage was led by a uniformed band which played popular film music. This was an occasion they had been preparing for months.
Soon as the groom’s party arrived at the venue in Philang village, Roshni’s (bride) family welcomed the groom with a tilak and an aarti. Inside the envelope gifted to each guest was a card, aside from the usual token of money. “Just as you grace this occasion with your presence, we urge you to build and use toilets so that your village will be so clean and beautiful that you would be proud to belong to it,” the card said.
“I was quite surprised to see the message,” said Dimri, admitting that he approved of the gesture. He said that there had been many Swachh Bharat meetings in their village where they had talked about good sanitation practices. Dimri who has a toilet in his home believes it is an innovative method to spread awareness about sanitation. “This traditional pahadi ritual in marriages will really motivate people to adopt good sanitation practices,” he said.
The district administration of Chamoli in Uttarakhand had decided to take advantage of the local traditions during the wedding season that commenced in September to promote good sanitation practices. After a series of meetings, all ASHA workers were given around 1000 cards each so that they could approach families of brides to place the cards inside the gift envelope. This way, reach of the cards was possible in every village. Also, ASHA workers were instructed to demand more cards in case the number of marriages conducted was more than anticipated.
Around 200 marriages are expected to take place this season. Considering that for each of the weddings an average of 500 cards are printed and distributed to guests, we hope to cover about one lakh people with this message, said Chief Development Officer of Chamoli, Mangesh Ghildiyal.
According to him, thus far about 50 marriages have taken place in the district during this season, all of which placed the cards with the sanitation message in the thank you envelopes. “Marriages are joyous occasions and people are more than willing to take forward the sanitation message,” Ghildiyal added.
From the 9 blocks in Chamoli, 3 have already been declared ODF and another 3 will be made ODF by the month end. As per plans, on the Uttarakhand’s official State day on November 9, the whole of State will be declared ODF.