UDAIPUR: South Rajasthan may be a tribal dominant and a socio-economically backward area in the state but great things are happening here. Seven villages of Chittorgarh, Udaipur and Bhilwara districts have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as 10,000 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing pucca toilets at their homes.
Project 'Maryadaa' is being championed by the state government and Vedanta group's Hindustan Zinc, one of the global largest producer of zinc, silver and lead, with a mission to make Rajasthan an Open Defecation Free state. The project operates with an innovative methodology for mobilizing communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation.
"Vedanta 'Maryadaa' campaign joined the Prime Minister call for Swachh Bharat, we carried a special drive at Vedanta premises, colony and within community," Anil Agarwal, chairman of the group, tweeted recently. Vedanta business locations carried out cleanliness drive and employees too joined the campaign in its townships.
"Taking forward the Swachh Bharat campaign, Hindustan Zinc is constructing 30,000 toilets out of which 10,000 have already been constructed. Once we complete our initial target, 80 villages will become ODF in Rajasthan within two years," Pavan Kaushik, the spokesperson informed.
"I learnt about the negative effects of open defecation, and I did not want to be the one contributing to the pollution of the environment and exposing other people to risks," said Kaisi Bai a poor tribal woman at Karget village, near Debari in Udaipur, who was among the first people to dig a pit. All the members of her family now use toilet and do not go in open for defecation.
"My grandchildren do not suffer from stomach problems now after we started using toilet," she said. Kaisi Bai had to spend only 900 rupees from her pocket, the rest of the expenditure, about Rs 8000 was met by Hindustan Zinc and the state government.
Similarly, many households of Maton village at Maton mines, Rela, Nevatalai and Chanawda villages at Zawar Mines, Dabok, at Zinc Smelter Debari are the villages in Udaipur while Bansen at Chittorgarh Parasrampura village at Agucha Mines in Bhilwara have been facilitated by the project partners to become ODF.
"I am very happy to have a lavatory. I find it very convenient using it instead of going to the bush. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity" said Kanku Bai, another beneficiary. The project also emphasis on behaviour change as a more sustainable way to sanitation improvement. It triggers a realization in the community on the harmful consequences of open defecation and a desire to take immediate action. "The villagers required a great amount of persuasion and counseling for construction and use of toilets and importantly to maintain them amicably. Initially, no one was ready as they obviously preferred the easy way, open defecation.
But women and children played important role and so the elderly people. It's a collective effort to live a life of dignity" Kaushik added. Now all the households at the seven villages are are proud of their achievements. It is not easy for poor earning tribal families to spare money required to build their individual toilets when it can be had for free in the fields. Certainly there are going to be many more success stories on the lines of these villages, which has already taken a lead.