A walk through the Banpur hamlet of Gumla village and you will hear a lot of talk about toilets and sanitation. There is also considerable construction activity going on and so far 32 toilets with attached bathrooms have been completed of the total 85 such toilets planned.
According to Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak (ZSBP) of Gumla District in Jharkhand, the little hamlet that is situated in a naxal prone belt surrounded by hills and forests is one of the most economically backward as evident from the kutcha houses and lack of very basic amenities. Further, the agrarian community depends on seasonal monsoon for their agricultural work. Nevertheless, when they heard about the importance of sanitation, majority of the women conveyed their assent and wholeheartedly supported the move to build toilets.
The Swachh Bharat Mission campaign had been doing the rounds in the area for some time and they had heard all about the need to use toilets and how it would contribute to health and well being of the entire community. That they wouldn’t have to search for safe spots, away from the danger of insects and crawling creatures was another positive point. And considering it would preserve their dignity, women couldn’t agree more.
The women folk were so enthralled with the idea of a toilet that when they heard about building activity taking place in a neighbouring block, they sent some of their men to learn how to build a toilet. When the men returned, a village meeting was convened during which toilets and their advantages were debated at length.
The community decided to completely stop open defecation and build toilets, the ZSBP said. Further, they wanted to complete building of toilets through self-financing. In this regard, they took a loan of Rs 2 lakhs from their own Sangathan or Self Help Group and approached the bank for a loan of Rs 1.5 lakhs. In total, they had invested Rs 3.5 lakhs for construction of 85 toilets.
This whole process came as a pleasant surprise to the district administration who although had carried out initial awareness building and triggering exercises in the village were unaware of the activities and discussions that transpired. That the community decided to go for self-financial was admirable.
All the toilets comprised a super structure of one toilet and bathroom attached and a substructure of twin pits. “These were the models used in the neighbouring blocks which the people of Banpur hamlet decided to emulate,” the ZSBP explained.
Having become aware of this great initiative of this non-descript village, the district administration is now making efforts to provide all possible support to complete construction of all toilets in the hamlet.
“I salute members of the community namely – Nilima, Santi, Vinod, Juhi, Injot, Rajesh, Kusum, Prachi, Naveen, etc for their courageous initiative to make their village open defecation free without any support of district administration,” the ZSBP said.