These stories show the bravery, courage, sacrifice, commitment, and responsibility that exemplary citizens have portrayed setting an example for the entire nation to follow
India is in an ongoing battle against open defecation. A battle that’s been going on for half a century. The Swachh Bharat Mission initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now spreading out across the country and reaching the farthest corners of the nation. This collective struggle to end the practice has turned into a national revolution of toilet construction in households. Witnessing active participation in rural India, there are some noteworthy incidents that inspire confidence and give assurance that Bharat will be Swachh indeed. These are the stories of the unsung heroes of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. These stories show the bravery, courage, sacrifice, commitment, and responsibility that exemplary citizens have portrayed setting an example for the entire nation to follow.
Toilet as Wedding Gift
In 2015, in rural Maharashtra, an Indian bride requested a ready-made toilet as a wedding gift from her parents for her marriage. Chaitali, a daughter of a farmer, realized that her in-laws’ house didn’t have a toilet after her marriage was fixed. Instead of the usual jewelery or kitchen appliances, she asked her parents to get a toilet built. She is the first Indian bride to have asked for a toilet as a wedding gift for her marriage.
No Toilet, No Marriage
Priyanka Bharti’s actions have inspired young brides all over the country. Priyanka, a 19 year-old, newlywed from Uttar Pradesh, ran away from her in-laws’ house on the second day after her marriage after she saw that there was no toilet there. She didn’t want to defecate in the open like the members of her husband’s family. In a swift act of defiance to open defecation, she not only inspired a widespread movement but also came under the radar of Sulabh International, a non-profit organization working for sanitation and hygiene in India and abroad. Sulabh assisted Priyanka and constructed a toilet in her in-laws’ house and also awarded her with Rs 2 lakh for inspiring revolutionary change in the lives and livelihoods of brides all over India.
Giving up the American Dream to deal with Indian poop The story of this Indian-American is one of the most inspiring toilet stories across the nation. Returning to India in 2007, Swapnil Chaturvedi was appalled by the sheer lack of sanitation facilities and the rampant open defecation in his own home country. Promptly, he decided to leave his convenient job and luxurious American lifestyle to dedicate his life to educating his fellow citizens on hygiene habits and improving the existing public restrooms in the community which were deemed unsafe for women not too long ago. Launching the Samagra Sanitation Programme in 2011, he became a Gates Foundation Trusty and effectively become the ‘poop’ man of India.
No Toilet, No Food
A 15-year-year old girl in the Tumakuru district of Karnataka went on a hunger strike in demand for a toilet. Staging a 48-hour hunger protest, Layanya not only convinced her parents to build her a toilet but also became the impetus for Swachh Bharat Mission that launched it on a higher trajectory
Goat for Toilet
The 105-year-old Kunwari BaiYadav joined the brigade of Bharat’s swachhta heroes after becoming the first resident in her village to build a toilet. She was inspired by PM Modi’s clarion call for a clean India and she immediately set out to do exactly that. Paying for the construction by selling some of her goats, the only source of livelihood for her, she inspired all other households in the village to get toilets and after a year, every household in the village had a toilet. Damtari, home to 8 lakh people, is the first ODF district in Chhattisgarh.
Mortgaging Jewellery for Toilet
Kanti Lal Rot’s actions prove that charity definitely begins at home. Kanti, a daily wager from Dungarpur district of Rajasthan has proved himself to be a caring husband, son, and father. He wanted his family to have a toilet rather than keeping his cattle and wife’s jewellery. Mortgaging both, he raised enough money to construct a toilet. Later, the municipality gave him a Rs 8,000 grant to restore the mortgaged items.
Crowdfunding a toilet
Men have also joined in the Swachhta efforts. 4 young class 8th students from the Nagapattinam District of Tamil Nadu raised money to build a toilet at a friend’s house where there was no toilet before. Approaching classmates for funding construction, they were able to gift their friend a toilet.
No Toilet, Sells Mangalsutra
Instrumental to the nationwide campaign of toilet and sanitation, the rural women, who are daily wagers have played a pivotal role in the Swachhta movement. Phool Kumari’s inspiring actions are noteworthy. She chose her dignity over ornamental jewellery symbolic of marriage, and this decision is awe-inspiring. Phool Kumari works as a cook at a primary school in Barakhanna village in Bihar. She sold her mangalsutra to get the money to construct a toilet in her home. She was made the brand ambassador of the sanitation initiative in her district.
Loans for toilets
Going that extra mile to ensure the safety and health of their children, a group of women from rural Tamil Nadu took out micro-finance loans to fund the construction of toilets in their village. Open defecation continues to be a menace to the health and safety of children, especially girls. Determined to build a toilet, they chose to get a loan instead of raising funds.
Usually, the dynamic between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law is shaky at the start. Not for this pair. Toilet actually became a means to bond between a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law from Bollavaram village in Andhra Pradesh. In a rare occurrence, the mother in-law got a toilet built in her house by the time her daughter in-law arrived. Welcoming her with the gift, the generous mother in-law inspired the entire nation.
Toilets as Rakshabandhan Gifts Inspiring many stories of toilet successes in India, PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan inspired yet another community from Rajasthan. In a laudable move, brothers in a village in rural Rajasthan gifted toilets to their sisters on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. This move inspired similar events in Udaipur and Ajmer where people constructed toilets for their sisters.
Mason’s Toilet Mission
Swachh Bharat’s epic saga would be incomplete without mentioning Kalabati Devi’s contribution to the cause. The 50-year-old Mason from Uttar Pradesh didn’t hastate to collect funds by going door-to-door in slums across Kanpur. She held meetings with community leaders and successfully raised funds to construct toilets in her community. She also spends time educating slum dwellers on proper sanitation.
Dubai’s Toilet Titan
Known as the ‘Toilet Titan’, Dubai-based Siddeek Ahmed is the brilliant innovator behind India’s first electronic public toilets. His group has constructed 2,500 automated public toilets across the nation. He participated in Swachhathon 1.0 where he received an award for his inventions.
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved