Our swachhata work brought us to Gujarat: Sarpanchs & Swachhagrahis


All roads led to Gujarat for Swachh Bharat Diwas 2019, an occasion that celebrated the open defecation free (ODF) status of all villages across India, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary that fell on 2nd October, 2019.

Over 20,000 Swachhagrahis and Sarpanchs gathered in the western state over a three day event that included participation in Garba and Dandiya dances held during Navrathri, visits to model villages as well as iconic sites in Gujarat such as Sabarmati Ashram, Statue of Unity, Dandi Kutir, among others.

Swachh Bharat Diwas function on 2nd October in Ahmedabad was the finale of the event when the participants had the opportunity to listen to the inspiring speech of the Prime Minister, appreciating their work and asking them to continue the work of swachhata to ensure a clean India.

“Our Swachh Bharat work, brought us this far, so we can participate in this massive celebration,” said some of the participants.  For many of them, this was the first time they had ventured out of their districts.  Meeting with other swachhata workers, sharing notes and being exposed to other language groups and cultural practices was a once in a life opportunity.

More than 8300 of the participants came from outside Gujarat, representing their states, bringing with them rich experience of working in a nationwide behavioural change programme that provided access to sanitation to all the rural communities.

Here are some of their stories:

  1. We are respected in our communities today: Ramya R

A sanitation worker with SBM-G for 5 years, Ramya R from Thiruvallur district has been working as a motivator.  She had conducted numerous awareness programmes on hygiene and sanitation for the community.  “All the people in our villages know us well now.  They know that all our programmes are for their wellbeing.  It is through us that many of the development programmes are being implemented,” she said.  As far as coming to Gujarat is concerned, she said, she is delighted that she will be listening to the PM.  There’s a lot left to be done when she returns – with regard to menstrual hygiene management and plastic waste management.

  1. Satya contributed to making 42 villages ODF

2Having started her SBM journey in 2014, D. Sathya, a transgender from Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu was initially appointed as a district level trainer.  She displayed enormous levels of enthusiasm and commitment in the way she interacted with people and was praised for her communication skills.  She created awareness about the importance of sanitation and hygiene through street plays and other methods of interpersonal communication.  Children in particular were delighted with her use of cartoon characters to spread the sanitation message. Owing to her hard work, she was made District Master trainer in 2018.  She has contributed to making 42 villages in her block and 7 other blocks ODF.

  1. Gracy Helen, Kovandakuruchi Panchayat, Tamil Nadu

A motivator from Kovandakuruchi GP in Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu, Gracy Helen has been working with the SBM-G campaign for five years.  Her expertise lay in conducting awareness sessions in anganwadis, schools and colleges.  She has built up a force of 404 women champions – their role being to make people aware about the health benefits of safe sanitation.  At the same time, this exercise gave women a 3voice and made them aware of their rights.  “If you tell school children, the sanitation message, it will reach their families and their communities,” she asserted.  She also focused on the elderly and through them spread the word about the dangers of using plastic.  She consistently trained village motivators and sanitation workers, firing them up to discharge their duties for the good of the whole community.

  1. Rekha Rani, Sarpanch, Narsham, Thiska Block, Haridwar, Uttarkhand

4A sarpanch for the past 4 years, Rekha Rani recalls that very few people had toilets in her village five years ago.  After a lot of awareness building, today all houses in her village have toilets and everyone is using them.  On her village’s ODF strategy, she said that they had regular community awareness meetings, house visits, nukkad nataak, etc., to convince people about the need to build toilets.  The stories of the fecal oral route to disease transmission and dignity that toilets would provide to the women folk were used extensively.  Today, the entire focus has shifted to village cleanliness and solid and liquid waste management, recycling, etc.  Rekha is happy to be in Gujarat to participate in this momentous event when the whole of India will be declared ODF.   She feels inspired and motivated and is keen to meet other women leaders.  She is proud that she would be listening to the PM who is working hard to develop India.

  1. Devki Bisht, Sarpanch, Rajawala GP, Sahaspur Block, Dehradun, Uttarakhand

5A sarpanch for the past 5 years, Devki steered her village to become ODF.  “Today, no one carries a lotta to go into the jungle to defecate in the open,” she said.  And everyone is using their toilet.  Our focus is now on SLWM.  We have systems in place for this – a vehicle to collect waste, a shed where waste is segregated and sent for recycling.  Dustbins are kept in all public spaces and outside shops; and we have built compost pits and soak pits.  I believe in “Sabka saat sabta vikas.”

  1. Sujatha Panda, Master trainer, Sambalpur, Odisha

6Sujatha and others in her team visited the model village of Lilapur in Ahmedabad on 30th September.  They were very impressed with the facilities (water supply, drainage, electricity) and the discipline showed by people in adhering to the systems set up.

A master trainer from Sambalpur district of Odisha, she is well versed in CAS and SLWM and has conducted numerous triggering sessions to build awareness among people of the community to follow safe sanitation.  At times she had to carry out triggering repeatedly in a village to convince people.  “All our villages are 100% ODF now,” she smiled.  “Our nigrani committees are still at work, they check homes to see if people are using their toilets, at least once a week.”  As many as 153 villages in Sambalpur now have solid waste management systems in place.  Three of their villages are being made into model villages.

When she returns, she will continue to work for SBM and try to make villages similar to Lilapur.  She expressed appreciation for the Sarpanch of Lilapur who is a hands-on leader who calls people if he finds they are wasting water.

  1. Batakrishna Routray, Master trainer, Jagatsinghpur, Odisha

7A master trainer for the past two years, Batakrishna is well versed in CAS approach to sanitation, having conducted several awareness programmes.  He is looking forward to listening to the PM.  It is a proud moment for him – that all that he has done for sanitation so far has led to this.  He will go back and try to make his village like the model Lilapur village.

  1. Santosh Karadi, Pratapgarh, Rajasthan

8A village development officer in Pratapgarh zila of Rajasthan, Santosh Karadi talked about the good work being done in SBM.  Her village too is ODF now.  People’s living conditions are not so good.  Nevertheless, they were able to get support from MGNREGA and others to get money to build toilets.  She was appreciative of Gujarat, particularly with respect to plastic management.  They serve tea and food in steel containers and not plastic.  When I go back, I will stop using plastic.  I will also encourage others in the community to recycle and use cloth bags.  “We are going to work very hard to make the PM’s SUP programme a success.”

  1. Rinku, Sirohi, Rajasthan

9According to Rinku an anganwadi worker, 2 bus loads came from Rajasthan for the SBD 2019 event.  She wholeheartedly thanked PM Modi for bringing them here, allowing them to see sites such as Gandhiji’s birth place, Sabarmathi and so on.  Visiting them is a treat they had not envisaged.  Earlier, it was just anganwadi and home for them.   Now they have the privilege of visiting Gujarat and participating in Gandhiji’s birth anniversary celebration.  PM Modi is doing a great job.  People are keeping their villages clean and healthy.  When she goes back, she will continue to work for village sanitation and to keep the environment clean.  In this regard, she will start with the children to stop them from using plastic.

  1. Pawanpur Rao, Udaipur, Rajasthan

10When the PM is working so hard to make our villages and our whole country clean, we should do our bit and cooperate and work diligently to make his dream a reality.  We should now keep our villages clean and stop using plastic.

  1. Anju Meda, Sarpanch, Pratapgarh, Rajasthan

11My community and I have learnt a lot from SBM – about keeping our surroundings and villages clean; and the importance of using toilets.  All this will keep us healthy and help our village to develop.  We should now stop using plastic in all that we do – for food packing or buying vegetables.

  1. Team Nagaland:

12Comprising a team of 9, Team Nagaland is delighted to be in Gujarat.  It was their first time in this western State.  They visited Lilapur model village and were overwhelmed with the warm hospitality and welcome.  They learnt a lot from the way the panchayat functions, very different from their villages back home.  It was a good learning experience to hear about their taxing structure, systems for sanitation which are being implemented well.  It was a good takeaway for them.  Seeing the Gandhi ashram was very informative as also learning about Gandhiji’s life story.

  1. Sanjay, District Coordinator, Shahjanpur, UP

On his second visit to Gujarat, Sanjay has seen the market, various other buildings and the most beautiful temple – Jain Temple which he thinks is very peaceful.  Jain Mandir was quoted by PM in his speech on 15th August when referring to plastic ban.  Sanjay said that SBM-G has changed all villages in its ODF mission and is now trying to make India plastic free.  Other initiatives to have dustbins in all public spaces, managing of solid and liquid waste will make our villages clean and the impact of such initiatives is seen in the lives of people in our community.  They will make us healthy.

  1. Lalhmunliani, Mizoram

Lalhmunliani from Thingsul Tlangnuam village in Aizawl district of Manipur is credited for the cleanliness of her village.  She is currently the chairman of the village sanitation committee of Tlangnuam village, set up by the village council and also the WATSAN committee.  She takes care of all matters related to village cleanliness.   Also a swachhagrahi, she knows the importance of hygiene and proper household latrines and how they can impact health of the community.  She is the reason many homes have toilets.  She has played a great role in distributing water filters to every household so they can have safe drinking water. She monitors village cleanliness and has regular sessions with students and the community.

  1. Maya Devi, Sarpanch, Saithal GP, Dousa District Rajasthan

Some years ago, when people were not building toilets, the Sarpanch called for a Gram Sabha meeting.  During the lengthy meeting that ensued, she discussed the importance of safe sanitation for the health and well-being of the community.   She stressed on the fact that their village development would depend on their access to sanitation facilities.  Thereafter, she formed teams to mobilize people for toilet construction.

  1. SBM District Coordinator, Ajmer

In the early days of SBM, Ajmer had a felicitation ceremony where they placed a flower garland across the neck of the individual who was found defecating in the open.  He said they had to resort to such practices in the initial days to convince people.  Nowadays they have a nigrani committee that periodically checks on open defecation and if anyone is found to defecate outdoors is advised against it.  They are currently working on water conservation because they realise that water availability will ensure continued usage of toilets.

  1. Solanki Yashwant Salunke, ASHA worker, Nandhvan village

When I was selected to go to Gujarat for the 2nd October event, I initially felt nervous about what might happen there.  I was scared about being in a huge crowd.  But the officer said it would be a once in a lifetime experience, and that’s why I am here.

I realise what a good initiative our PM has taken to make our country clean.  We are very impressed with the level of cleanliness here and wish to replicate the same back home.  We now understand the real intention of swachhata mission.  Here in Gujarat, we were taken to a public health centre.  I could not believe how clean it was.  We also saw in the model village how people were working towards a common goal, be it a swachhagrahi, a teacher or an ASHA worker.  Over the next 6 months we will implement the same in our village in Sakri Taluka, Dhule district of Maharashtra.  About 15,000 people live in my village.

  1. Susheela Laxman Patorkar Amaravati Dharani village, Dhuni GP Block Lavada, Maharashtra

Though she came from a tribal area, she understood well the importance of hygiene and sanitation.  When SBM-G campaign began in her village, she supported the team by motivating people to build toilets.  She contributed to the formation of 20 Self Help Groups (SHGs). She was also able to secure funds for two SHGs under Hirkani Project.  The issue of plastic and the dangers of using single use plastic was a big concern for her.  So she made bags and baskets of bamboo and cloth.  She gives it to the economically backward families who are unemployed ever since plastic was banned.  Given that there is a market for such products now, her SHGs make them and distribute to women.

  1. Exposure visit to Vedcha village

Yesterday we went for an exposure visit to model Village Vedcha in Gujarat.  Visiting the village with 1420 households was an eye opener.  The panchayat is maintaining a garbage pit.   A village level rainwater harvesting plant is in place to recharge ground water of village.  The village is also effectively sustaining ODF status after constructing 250 IHHL under SBM –G.  They are also implementing a profitable water supply scheme. For these efforts, the panchayat has won state level award of Rs 50000.

  1. Sonali Yadav, Sarpanch, Tawashi GP, Sholapur, Maharashtra

13To be receiving an award for the best Sarpanch from none other than the PM himself is a dream come true for Sonali Yadav.  Everyone in her village had worked very hard to make the village exemplary in all respects.  Not only does every house have a toilet, everyone uses the same.  Plastic ban has been in effect for a year now and all people use cloth bags.  A walk around the village would reveal that there is no stagnant water anywhere as there is an effective drainage system in place with about 40 soaks pits to recharge the ground water table.

  1. Savita Uma, Swachhagrahi, Pune

Under the leadership of Savita Uma, a swachhagrahi from Pune district in Maharashtra, waste segregation is being done very effectively in her village.  Earlier, plastic waste was a huge problem, it would be strewn about and lay on the sidewalks along with other garbage.  After listening to the PM’s message, the swachhagrahi decided to do something about it.  She informed people about the dangers of plastic waste and asked them to curb the use of single use plastics in particular.  Other plastic is being sent for recycling.  All these activities related to plastic waste are being done in a mission mode.  And all people in the village practice waste segregation at source.

  1. Kareena Khatun, Swachhagrahi, Dadgaon, Jashpur, Chhattisgarh

14Kareena Khatun received an award from the PM on 2nd October, 2019.  In her role as a swachhagrahi over the past few years, she has done a lot to ensure construction of toilets in homes without toilets and 100% toilet usage.  Today, she continues to monitor toilet usage through morning followup and village sanitation.  Among her duties are to check cleaning of roads, hand pump areas, ponds, etc.  She has also been instrumental in plantation work, and continues to monitor hygiene and handwashing in schools, and conduct awareness meetings during Gram Sabhas, as also oath taking, rathri chaupal, and cleanliness of anganwadi centres.

  1. Ujjawala Vishnupanth Bhoite, Swachhagrahi, Sangli district

Ujjawala relates how she ensured that people used their toilets consistently.  Many a time, she went with the village nigrani committee to check former open defecation sites to see if people were still defecating there.  Those seen doing so were advised against the practice, for the well-being of the whole village community.  This morning followup ensured that people used their toilets.

  1. Chandrakant Kulkarni (70)

15“Swachhata is important because it brings health, wellbeing and development – starting from the village to the district, the state and the whole country,” Chandrakant Kulkarni (70) said.  Since 2014, the retired school teacher had been donating one third of his pension of Rs. 5000 each month for Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), issuing a total of 52 cheques.  I have been teaching children in school about hygiene and sanitation.  But when the PM took this up, I was inspired to do something.  “It is like a service to Bharat Mata,” he added.

Kulkarni who was with his wife Anjali Kulkarni at Ahmedabad to participate in Swachh Bharat Diwas 2019, said that he had himself experienced poverty.  He had travelled on a cycle most of his life and knew what the economically backward sections of the communities felt, wanting to build toilets but not having sufficient funds.  Further, he had heard that 72% of people in UP had no toilets. That prompted him to do his bit and help in some way.

“Your life is worth something when you live for others.  It is our duty, and we should think of ways to help our country.  There are people who cannot afford even one meal a day.  So what we gave was nothing much,” he concluded.

  1. Representing children’s role in SBM


Shah Kashish (9), Krish Chauhan (11), Preet Chauhan (9) and Manani Prachi (10) from Nest Public School in Ahmedabad represented the role of children in SBM-G.  At the Swachh Bharat Diwas 2019 exhibition, the four bright-eyed children were present, talking about how they practice handwashing and hygiene both at school and at home.  They were well aware of the need to refrain from littering, about recycling, SUP ban, the need to use cloth bags and practice safe sanitation.

During the SBM-G campaign, children had actively participated in writing letters to parents, convincing them to build toilets, taking part in rallies and awareness building programmes conducted by their schools and district administrations.  The role they played in Vaanar Sena or Dabba Dol gangs was admirable.  It was their way of convincing people to do away with the harmful practice of open defecation and to use toilets.



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