Tushar is not the average 8-year-old. He does not let the fact that he suffers from speech and hearing impairment come in the way of his mission. Come rain or shine, he wakes up at 5 AM and goes from door to door of every house in his neighbourhood. Using hand gestures and noises in a language of his own, he tells people to stop defecating in the open.
The boy who studies in standard 3 of a government school in Kumhari Gram Panchayat (GP) in Balaghat District of Madhya Pradesh also carries a whistle that he uses when he sees people relieving themselves outdoors and sometimes stands in their way to get across his message.
“He has learnt about the Swachh Bharat Mission and its objectives from his teachers and also the locally appointed preraks,” said Collector and District Magistrate of Balaghat District, Bharat Yadav. Surprisingly, his bold demeanor is bringing about positive change and people are listening to his message and making plans to build toilets.
Situated 8 kms from the district headquarters, Kumhari is a naxal affected and tribal dominated GP where the main livelihood is agriculture and forest products. “It has been very difficult to change the mindset of people who believe that open defecation is their right,” Yadav said. Further, majority of the people depend on the government to provide for them, he added.
Owing to the efforts of Tushar, results are being seen. Kumhari is home to 869 households of which 350 have toilets and working is currently being carried out in 310 of them. The GP will be declared ODF on January 26, 2017.
As far as the district is concerned, Balaghat has 690 GPs of which 170 GPs are ODF and one entire block will be declared ODF in 10 days time. To help with the mission, the district administration has enlisted the support of preraks, local NGOs, women Self-Help Groups and community based organizations; offering them incentives to create awareness about good sanitation practices.
According to the DC, with the current pace at which work is being done, the entire district – both rural and urban areas will be declared ODF on June 30, 2017.