In open defecation area, village says hello to own loo

Success story: Ganjam NGO makes toilets, bathroom for Subaliapalli village in Dhanantara panchayat. Now eyeing second village

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Prasanna Mohanty | November 7, 2012


The model village. Entry point to Subaliapalli village in Sheragada block of Ganjam district. All 108 households not only have individual toilets, they actually use it. No other village has such distinction in the block.
The model village. Entry point to Subaliapalli village in Sheragada block of Ganjam district. All 108 households not only have individual toilets, they actually use it. No other village has such distinction in the block.

Media for Accountability

Every evening, between 6 and 7, the entire population of Sheragada block in Ganjam district is out on the streets — young and old, men and women. No, it isn’t because earthquake strikes the block every evening at that hour. It’s just that they are all out to defecate on the streets — a daily ritual.

Long ago, nobody really knows exactly when, all of them fell in love with metalled roads, especially the 14-km State Highway 36 that connects the block headquarters with NH 217. They simply squat on either side of the road, relieving themselves in small groups as you drive by. It helps that there are no streetlights on this state highway.

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Except for people of Subaliapalli village in Dhanantara panchayat.

These villagers don’t need to go out to the streets because all 108 households in the village have their own toilets in their backyards. Thanks to a programme of total sanitation carried out by Ganjam-based NGO Gram Vikas, they are a happy lot, having washed away the stigma and leading a clean and healthy life. Pradeep Badatiya, a small farmer, says his family is much relieved since water supply to the toilets started in 2008. “The toilets are convenient.

We don’t have go to dirty places to dirty them further, and are saved from the shame of having to defecate in the open,” he says.
 

There is no fear of wild animals either, especially for women who get up and go for morning ablutions at 4 am.

Same is the case with P Raju Patra and the other villagers. The ‘revolution’ began in 2005 when Gram Vikas approached villagers and persuaded them to build their own toilets – a set of two pucca rooms with roof, one for relieving and the other for bathing. Once each villager had such structures ready in their backyards in a couple of years, a water tank was built and three borewells dug just outside the village.

Each household was then given three 24x7 piped water connections — one each in the toilet, bathroom and kitchen.On average, the cost of building each such toilet came to Rs 16,000, of which Rs 3,500 was given by Gram Vikas. The cost would have been higher had villagers themselves not offered free labour.

The water tank and borewells were funded by Gram Vikas and cost about Rs 10 lakh. There were additional expenses on laying out the pipelines. While these villagers are not any more prosperous than their neighbours — most are small and marginal farmers — it was their collective decision-making, unity and a sense of shame that goaded them to change their lifestyle. Sojan K Thomas, who heads Gram Vikas’s rural health and environment programme under which the Subaliapalli experiment was carried out, says they took care of three aspects while working on the project: providing “usable and decent” toilets, water connection to these toilets, and ensuring 100 percent participation of villagers. “We made it a precondition that we wouldn’t start work until there is 100 percent participation and contribution from villagers,” he says.

To ensure this, each household was asked to pay Rs 1,000, which went into building a corpus.

Once the system was put in place, each household was asked to pays a monthly Rs 30 for maintenance and a person was  hired for a monthly pay of Rs 1,000 to ensure that the system works without glitches. The going, thus far, has been smooth.

Gram Vikas has moved on but not out.

It still keeps a close eye. It has set up a village committee headed by a president, P Ravindra Kumar Patra, which meets regularly to ensure that the locals do not return to their old habits. Thomas says next on their agenda is Nuabali village: with its 70 households under Khirida panchayat, it will soon join Subaliapalli. The toilets, water tank and connections are ready and electricity supply snags will be sorted out soon.

Sheragada block will then have two villages where people don’t defecate in the open.

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