Nirmal Gram – a way of life in Bhutsar village of Gujarat
By Gurinder Gulati
“I am very happy that I don’t have to go out into the open for defecation anymore. Even if it is raining, it is not a problem because I have a toilet now in my own house. It’s such a relief!” said Chanchalben, one of the “BPL” (Below the Poverty Line) beneficiaries of Bhutsar village in Valsad district. “Having a toilet in the house and washing hands with soap protects us against various diseases. I also don’t feel embarrassed any more as I have a toilet in my own house”, said Ashish, 18 year old son of Chanchalben.
The Village Panchayat (village council) of Bhutsar has declared their village “Nirmal Gram” (Clean Village), and applied to the Government for the annual Nirmal Gram Puraskar award (Clean Village Award). Nirmal Gram means 100% households and institutions, including school or anganwadi, have a functioning toilet. Under the Total Sanitation Programme, toilets have been constructed in 168 “BPL” households, 26 APL (Above Poverty Line), 2 Anganwadi Centres and one in the school.
There is cleanliness all around the village. Bhustar also enjoys the unique distinction of being a “Mahila Samras” village, which means it’s an all-woman Panchayat elected unanimously, by virtue of which the village will benefit with a grant of Rs 2.0 million from the Government.
Raman Bhai, Head Master of Bhutsar primary school proudly said, “Our school has a separate toilet for boys and girls. Not a single child goes out for open defecation or urination. Also, when the mid day meal is served, they first wash their hands with soap. When enquired about the use of toilet, came the response in one voice from all the children, “we use the toilet and also wash our hands with soap. We have learnt this from the “Child Environment Corner” model provided by UNICEF.
Deepikaben, a young and vibrant woman “Talati” (village level revenue official), explained how the entire village joined hands to make it a Nirmal Gram. A survey was conducted to identify households without toilets as well as the ones belonging to BPL families, for which the Government provided an assistance of Rs 1,200. Rallies of youth and children were taken out through out the village and wall paintings and posters were put up all over the village to educate people about the importance of sanitation. Gram sabha meetings were held to mobilize the community to make the village a Nirmal Gram. “It was difficult in the beginning, but later on the Nirmal Gram concept picked up and now I am proud to say that all households, whether APL or BPL, have a toilet.
To support the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in the State, UNICEF has helped the Government in implementing information, education and communication activities. A number of advocacy workshops have been held to sensitize officials and elected representatives all over the state.
The Chief Minister of Gujarat has demonstrated his personal commitment by spearheading the campaign to mobilize the community to make Gujarat State a “Nirmal Gujarat” (Clean Gujarat). Out of 18,000 villages in Gujarat, so far only 1,652 villages have applied for “Nirmal Gram” awards and this year another 4,500 villages are expected to meet the criteria of “Nirmal Gram”. A long way to go still, but at least the journey has just begun!