Kanchan Devi left her home in Kanpur when she was married to a man from Jaridih East panchayat in Bermo Block of Bokaro District in Jharkhand. The first shock the school teacher received was finding that her husband’s home had no toilet. However, being a submissive daughter-in-law she suffered in silence as she went out in the early hours with other women to defecate in the open. In time, she got used to the idea. However, the deep sense of shame and embarrassment she felt, never truly left her.
About a decade ago, it was a practice for water carriers to deliver a few gallons of water to each home in the village. The water so distributed was never sufficient and method of distribution was not sustainable. Kanchan was one among those who resolved to find a solution to the problem. Considering that their gram panchayat was situated on the banks of River Damodar, they found a way to draw the river water into a tank and used a motor to provide regular water supply to all homes.
Her drive and enthusiasm got her elected as a Mukhiya in 2010 for the first time and again for a second time of the panchayat that was home to 859 households.
When the mother of 4 learnt about the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) after listening to the PM himself, as he spoke at the Red Fort on August 15, 2014, Kanchan felt incredibly motivated. How wonderful it would be for all homes to have toilets, she thought as ideas ran through her mind.
Being a person who is fiercely determined to do or get what she wants, she got in touch with the district administration. She got all the residents of the village to participate in the awareness building and triggering sessions and encouraged everyone to build and use toilets. Every opportunity she got, she conveyed to them the link between open defecation and disease as she urged them to follow safe sanitation practices.
Kanchan was also instrumental in building two community-toilet complexes to cater to those families who lived on rent and to the landless. One of them is close to the river bank and the other near the market place. She has also put in place a system for solid waste management. Currently there are 8 mobile garbage bins at strategic places that are used to collect waste from homes. Such waste is then segregated. While the non-biodegradable waste is sent for recycling the other waste is dumped in a common landfill.
Today, the panchayat enjoys 100% sanitation coverage. The Mukhiya also ensures that sanitation is maintained in her village. Further, residents of the village regularly approach her for any problems such as those relating to water supply or garbage and she is able to effectively address those issues.
(With inputs from ZSBP – Bokaro)