It’s barely 4.30 am and the sky is still dark when she wakes up and makes her way outside. There she meets with others who join her in various cleaning activities – sweeping the roads, picking up paper and plastic that is strewn about, gathering vegetable and other waste from the market place and removing unwanted weeds on the roadsides. Meet Sarpanch of Challapalli gram panchayat, in the Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh, Katta Padmavathi who has been the driving force, taking her village to an open defecation free (ODF) plus status.
When Padmavathi heard about the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin, she designed a campaign titled, ‘Swachh Challapalli.’ “All of us in our village pledged to bring total sanitation to the village in 1000 days from the day the national campaign was flagged off on 2nd October, 2014,” she said.
Towards this, the Sarpanch who was elected to this position on 2nd August, 2013 mobilized all community members from the 11 villages that belong to the panchayat until her panchayat was declared ODF on 4th April, 2017. Moreover, she has engaged the community in various other cleaning programmes – such as cleaning and de-silting of drains. During the plantation drive she initiated recently, every family was provided one sapling (Neem, Mango, Coconut, Chikoo or Custard Apple) each and 4000 others were planted at various spots across the village.
It is a matter of pride for the 28-year old Sarpanch that every home in the village has a gas connection in addition to a toilet. Efforts are also being made to ensure better health and reduction in cases of infant and maternal mortality. Further, all children in school going age have been enrolled in schools. Recently, cycles were distributed to 34 girl students studying in 10th grade.
On a personal note, having passed 10th grade earlier, Padmavathi completed her graduation after assuming her role as Sarpanch. Coming from an economically backward family without a proper dwelling place to call her own, she was married to a farm labourer. Seeing leadership potential in her, it was her uncle who supported her and motivated her to stand for Sarpanch elections.
“From my school days, I wanted to help the community and work for development,” she said.
As far as anganwadis are concerned, of the 14 that exist, 5 have pucca buildings and proposals have been sent to the government for the remaining 9. Work has also commenced for underground drainage and Tar roads. Further, a large public toilet complex has been constructed at the New NTR Park. Other works in progress are a dumping yard for solid waste and a burial ground. “When this is done, our village will be a model village,” she said.
Incidentally, the Chief Minister is expected to visit the village when on the 1000th day when the campaign comes to an end.