Inspiring determination and action all across the country, the Swachh Bharat campaign has also brought forward stories to touch our hearts.
One such story is that of Kanchan Devi, the Mukhiya of Jaridih Panchayat, Jharkhand.
Originally from Kanpur, the school teacher moved to the village after her wedding. She was dismayed to discover that the practice of open defecation was rampant here, due to lack of water and sanitation facilities. She decided to step up and take the village towards a Swachh Bharat.
Making A Mark
Driven by determination, Kanchan Devi first tackled the problem of water shortage. For almost a decade, the villagers had to collect a specified quantity of water from water carriers for their household needs. This was despite being situated beside a natural source of water, the river Damodar.
Kanchan Devi was part of the committee that installed a tank and a pump to draw water from the river Damodar, putting an end to the villagers’ dependence on water trucks. Her efforts led to her being elected the Mukhiya (chief) two years in a row. Her panchayat covered over 850 households.
A Campaign To Build Toilets
A turning point for the village was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the Swachh Bharat campaign on Independence Day 2014, at the Red Fort. Kanchan Devi was taken in by the idea of each household having its own toilet. She began working relentlessly to make this a reality for the village that was also home to her four children.
She began by organising awareness programmes to drive home the importance of toilets for health and sanitation. Apart from encouraging the villagers to construct their own toilets, she also approached the district administration to facilitate the mission.
Dignity And Sanitation For All
Along with private toilets in homes, Kanchan Devi also implemented the construction of two community toilets, by the river and near the marketplace. These catered to the needs of families living on rent, and the landless, assuring all residents of access to sanitation and dignity.
Mobile garbage bins were also placed at strategic points for households to easily dispose of their waste. Currently, solid waste management practices are followed wherein the non-biodegradable waste is recycled, and the remaining is sent to the landfill. With these steps, Kanchan Devi has taken her village towards complete cleanliness.
ODF Status For The Village
Today, the Jaridih East Panchayat in Bermo block of Bokaro district enjoys Open Defecation-Free (ODF) status and 100% sanitation, thanks to the efforts of this courageous woman. She regularly redresses the villager’s concerns regarding water and sanitation.
Kanchan Devi’s story serves as an inspiration to all of us that with hard work and motivation, we can strive towards becoming a Swachh Bharat.