Village In Maharashtra Builds 338 Toilets In 20 Days
"Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" in Ramegaon
Ramegaon, a small village in Latur district in Maharashtra has emerged as one bright spot on the map of India by heeding to the Modi-government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) and constructing 340 toilets in less than three weeks and is heading to become open-defecation free (ODF) at record speed
Ramegaon is a quintessential Indian village -- basic sustenance coming from agriculture with the local economy to a large extent depending on seasonal rains. With survival pinned to the coming and going of rain-bearing clouds the 395-odd families neither had the inclination nor the means to worry about making toilet a part of their homes or worry about the ill hygiene and health effects of open defecation.
In the last few weeks of 2016 all this changed when volunteers from the local chapter of Bengaluru-based spiritual organisation Art of Living decided to make Ramegaon a sterling example of what a group of like-minded and determined social workers with full and active support of the locals can do to improve the quality of life in Indian villages.
Makrand Jadhav a senior full time volunteer from Art of Living who led the ODF project in Ramegaon recalls the unsightly and unhygienic landscape that used to welcome visitors to the village. “Between November and December of last year we campaigned door to door and convinced the villagers to adopt the Clean India Mission and take advantage of the money the government was offering to build toilets in every home in the country,” Jadhav said. At that time only 50 odd households in the village had a toilet and less than half them were actually using it.
While the cost of the toilet is around Rs 13,500, the government subsidy covered upto Rs 12,000 with the balance Rs 1,500 contributed by The Art of Living.
A full plan was drawn out in quick time and construction of the toilets started on January 5. On January 26, the mission was completed and the local media was told about the record achievement 338 toilets in 20 days including 2 for a local school and one for the village panchayat office.
Part of the challenge of dealing with open defecation also came from the lack of adequate water in the village. Just six months ahead of the ODF project, the volunteers had completed another crucial project in the village to ensure steady supply of water for farms and homes in the village. Four local streams that were semi-perennial were de-silted, thus bringing a permanent end to the water shortage problem in Ramegaon. “The success of this project had also contributed to convincing the villagers that we come with serious and good intentions and the ability to deliver what we promise,” Jadhav said.
There are over 42,000 villages in Maharashtra. We convinced the villagers to step up and start contributing for the betterment of their village themselves and not expect everything from the government. And it worked,” Jadhav said.
Building of toilets alone Jadhav agrees does not solve the open defecation issue.The next step is to provide running water from taps and build “magic pits”. These 3 feet deep pits not just collects the human waste but also channels it into the ground through two layers of stones and sand, thus also recharging the groundwater. These “Magic pits” are supported by a state government subsidy of Rs 2,566 each. The toilets are also getting their finishing touch with tiles. This project is expected to be completed in a month’s times, which should make Ramegaon completely ODF compliant.
Work never stops in Ramegaon. A new water pipes project is also on the drawing board, to replace old pipelines that comes with a water meter in every home in the village. The cost of this project will be split three ways with equal contribution from AOL, village panchayat and the villagers. A new RO (reverse osmosis) water plant is also in the works, which will be shared by the village and Art of Living in equal measure.“When the RO plant is ready we will be able to supply 20 litres of water at just Rs 5 each. In terms of providing metered water, we are ahead of many big cities,” said Jadhav.
We are trying to bring about a transformation in the minds of the villagers. These are investments that will pay for themselves and instill an attitude that can bring about a revolution across the country. The promise is that Art of Living will be with them right through
The involvement of volunteers runs deep in Latur district with 80 teachers, around 15 full time volunteers like Jadhav and another 200-300 part time volunteers.The local agrarian economy has also received the support of The Sri Sri Institute of Agricultural Sciences & Technology Trust in Bengaluru. Farmers are trained to make their own fertilizers through continuous education and training. One of the big success stories from this project is the development and use of a bio-enzyme, or what is locally called a ‘booster tonic’ for the crops, that comes at just Rs 5 a litre against similar products in the market that costs upward of Rs 5000 a litre. “Our enzymes have no side effects (on the crop or water table),” said Jadhav.
The self sustaining credo of the projects in villages like Ramegaon is already bearing fruits. During the latest crop season the farmers managed not just a bumper crop of wheat and chana (chickpea) but also a third crop of jowar (sorghum) too, thus bringing in an additional stream of income.