When roughly 60% of the country’s 1.2 billion people still defecate in the open and the consequences for women are huge, a group of 15 people mostly heroin addicts, ex-prisoners from Norway built public toilets for the women near Mumbai Central. They also cleaned old school classrooms, decorated temple in the Bhaginkatta village, Uttara Kannada District.
‘Back in the Ring’:
They formed a group called “Back in the Ring” based in Norway led by a yoga trainer R Alexander Medin, a project to empower people struggling with drug addiction and get their life back by the mean yoga and voluntary work.
The group features 15 people who are struggling with heroin addiction, many of their members never completed school; some have a great difficulty in finishing something properly once they have started. They are trying transforming their lives by Karma Yoga projects, building a community by active participation and working together as they journey to India. Group has visited the Indian states like Karnataka, Maharashtra.
Group member Alexander Medin spoke to The Logical Indian and said their last day at work was March 15 and then they are leaving back to Norway.
Building Ladies Toilet in Mumbai:
While visiting India the group came across various issues such as sanitation – worst of all for women and girls in public places, apathy towards old school. The group has shown a lot of concern toward sanitation issue for the women. Hence they have decided to build ladies toilets near Mumbai central and show some respect towards women.
Group posted on Facebook:
“To all the great women out there,
Every day you deserve the equal right to men,
Everyday you should be treated with respect,
Everyday you should be honored for what you are,
Every day you please forgive stupid men who lack your strength”
While advocating equal rights of sanitation for the women, the group further states “The right to sanitation is equal for all, but unfortunately among all the public toilets here, most are for men. It is a disgrace for all the women who travel forth and back to work, the poor who don’t have any toilets and all the other women who feel unsafe going to the normal public toilets.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given the sanitation issue a top political priority, and launched Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission that aims to ensure a toilet for every household by 2019 and to educate people about the long-term health and economic benefits of using a proper sanitation system,
According to the study released on the occasion of World Toilet Day, India has 60.4 per cent of its people without access to safe and private toilets.
“Since 1990, access has improved by 22.8 percentage points, putting India at seventh out of eight countries for improvement in South Asia. In South Asia, Nepal has seen the most improvement, followed by Pakistan and Bhutan,” the report stated.
Group founder Alexander Medin says “May our little contribution show the way out of the sanitation problems for women”
While the project was little tiring and tested its member, but group thanks to the women of Mumbai, “that we are helping to change just a little and yes we are tired, but what a great privilege it is to leave a landmark where women can feel safe, wash themselves and take care of their private hygiene. So thank you great women of Mumbai. You thoroughly deserve this and so much more!”
His friend Jenson said “This project has got so much attention which has led to the possibility for four other train stations for woman toilets, which now does not exist. In the near future it will, all thanks to my yoga teacher and friend R. Alexander Medin and his massive heart. He has helped many and given them hope. Thank you for everything you have thought me and letting me apart of this wonderful KARMA YOGA project”.
According to the Times Of India, Ladies toilet project in Mumbai is jointly funded by the Oslo-based charity BITR along with the corporate house JSW Group and the corporate house will take up maintenance of the toilet on completion.
Refurbishing School and decorating temple:
While showing frustration over the apathy of the government toward primary school in Baginakatta, BITR group constructed a part of government school, cleaned and painted it which was actively supported by SAMHITHA Trust.
According to the group, “We have constructed a small arena for Government LP school, Baginakatta. Also, we have cleaned and painted the School. For the week that we were there, we helped in painting the school, building a new stage and cleaning old classrooms. It is a primary school from 1-5 grade. It has two teachers, two small buildings and ten students, all together.
When members were not working or doing yoga, they normally hang out and drink tea with the locals, sit around share stories and in the afternoon normally take a dip in the river to cool down or walk to the waterfall for a refreshing shower. One of their members actually cried in the bus home, because he has never felt such a welcoming heartfelt experience before.
Group members also worked in the maintenance of the local temple which is now fully operational and has become the price jewel of the village.
Group’s take away:
According to the group voluntary work was not just a stress buster but they also learned a lesson of a life in India.
“However, we carry a great antidote to all the stress, challenges, obstacles and many difficulties that waits in the horizon of life. We have a new meaningful mantra that carries hope; give warmth, a feeling of love, appreciation, support and strength. It is like an unflickering flame in the dark, showing the way and reminding us of the steady concentration from within free of worry”.
“Oh Bhaginakatta, thank you for teaching us the greatest lessons in life: Love, endurance, stability, togetherness and the art of completion”.
The Logical Indian community appreciates BITR group’s efforts in building sanitation and basic infrastructure in rural areas.