When Mehataru Sahu, the Sarpanch of Ilda village in Raipur, tried to convince villagers to build toilets in their homes, he was threatened with dire consequences.
Unfazed and unrattled by the threats, Sahu was determined to achieve his goal.
A Determined Raipur Zila Panchayat
Sahu found support from the Raipur Zila Panchayat administration that strives towards making rural Raipur, open defecation-free (ODF). Adopting an unusual approach, a team of the Zila Panchayat went to Ilda village collected human faeces and placed it in the middle of the village.
The reaction was obvious, angry villagers cried foul. The team had achieved one of its objectives. They made villagers realise how human excreta lying in the open is harming them by returning to their own bodies via air, water, and food.
Funds For Building Toilets
Those who were against building toilets asked, “Who will fund them?” The Zila Panchayat and Sarpanch told the villagers to spend their own money.
It was made clear that a Government grant of Rs 12,000 would be given only after three months of constructing the toilet and verifying that the toilets were being used.
Celebrations Cut Short By The ODF Brigade
The celebrations of the rebels were cut short by the ODF brigade, consisting of several volunteers including women and children. These volunteers drove the rebels away when they went to the fields to defecate as early as 4 am. The confidence of the rebels was further dented when women in the village began insisting for toilets in their homes.
A Success To Celebrate
Slowly, the villagers started building toilets in their homes and supported the underprivileged to do the same. Celebrating the success, Nilesh Kshirsagar, the architect of the ODF mission in the region, said that villagers began to use toilets as they built them with their own money.
He further added that the change in the approach of the administration and Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) have helped bring a behavioural change among villagers.
ODF Status In Just Three Months
The efforts of the administration and the change among villagers bore fruits. Ilda gained ODF status in just three months, a monumental achievement considering the hurdles its Sarpanch and officials had to face. Today, rural Raipur is replicating Ilda’s model of ODF mission with 263 Gram Panchayats achieving the ODF status.
Human Excreta As ‘Sona Khad’
In another exciting turn of events, villagers have now begun to use human excreta as manure. Known as ‘Sona Khad’, it doesn’t have any foul smell and is rich in manure. In fact, the administration has decided to use this for all plantation activities in Raipur.
The journey for the residents of the Ilda village has been indeed a roller coaster ride. Going by what it has achieved, it will not be wrong to say that it is leading the way in the cleanliness drive.