Whenever he visited big cities like Ahmedabad or Mumbai, 45-year-old farmer Manilal Rana from Savaniya in Rajasthan would notice one stark contrast – toilets. Unlike his village where open defecation had been the prevalent practice for ages, toilets were an integral part of every household in the cities. Resolving to change the scenario, Manilal set out on a mission to install toilets in every house in his village.
Armed with an unwavering determination, Manilal has succeeded in constructing over 500 toilets in Savaniya in just 35 days, reports NDTV.
The villagers were resistant to the idea of toilets
In Savaniya, heading out in search of a lonely space every morning with a ‘lota’ (water pot) in hand used to be the existing norm till late. Though Manilal himself had built a toilet in his house long back, the reluctance of his neighbours to do the same frustrated him. Most villagers were extremely unaware of safe sanitary hygiene. Moreover, they considered it sinful to have a kitchen and a toilet on the same premises. “They refused to let go of a traditional practice followed by their ancestors, which made my task harder,” Manilal shared with NDTV.
Educating about the ill-effects of open defecation
He admits how support from some youngsters and the district collector of Banswada motivated him to continue his mission, on days when he felt dejected after facing negative reactions from the locals. Gathering help from a group of spirited local youth, Manilal launched a full-fledged awareness campaign, where he spoke about how unhygienic open defecation is. Citing real-life incidents, he explained that the houseflies that sit on the exposed faeces, carry the harmful germs and transmit it to food items when they sit on the latter.
He emphasised how this is causing widespread diseases and affecting families after families. This aspect of the campaign helped Manilal convince the resistant villagers who earlier had no idea how unhealthy open defecation was.
How he organised the campaign
Day and night, whenever he got time, he would roam around the village with a whistle, keeping a strict vigil on open defecation. He is still continuing this practice to ensure not a single person from Savaniya ever again defecates in the open.
To fuel the pace of the campaign, it was transformed into more of a ceremonial custom. Every day, a priest would head a procession with the Sarpanch and members from the Nigrani Samiti, to lay the foundation for twin-pit toilets amidst religious rituals. Within just 35 days, Savaniya witnessed over 500 toilets being constructed and achieved the ODF (Open Defecation Free) status from the government. Today, Savaniya boasts of around 780 toilets.
Awarded by the Government of India
Manilal’s efforts have been recognised and duly rewarded by the Swachh Bharat Mission of Government of India. He attained the status of being the only Swachhagrahi from Rajasthan and was honoured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the concluding celebrations of #ChaloChamparan initiative in Bihar, which marked the launch of the final leg of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
“Construct toilets, be disease free and save money on medicines,” Manilal was quoted saying by NDTV.
Manilal Rana is an inspiration for all. He wishes to spread the awareness to adjacent villages. With the help of the youth, he plans to help them attain ODF as well.
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