New Delhi: It is past midnight and Janmoni Bora’s 4-year-old son is on an expedition to find a convenient spot to relieve himself. Crossing the green bushes and travelling for nearly 10 minutes in pitch dark he finally comes across a place where he can defecate in open. This could have been the first of many instances that he would have to encounter, like his other family members, had it not been for Rekha Mittal, mother of Virendra Mittal, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Jorhat district. Under the concept of ‘ Daan Toilet’ she donated a toilet to Janmoni, a single mother. Just like Ms Mittal, residents of Jorhat district, Assam are coming forward and donating toilets to families who cannot afford one under this noble initiative.
I am very grateful to Rekhaji for thinking about the health and future of my children. Earlier it was difficult, we had to go far, bring water from far, which becomes all the more difficult at night. After the death of my husband, I work and feed my children. We used to go to the bamboo forest behind our house. Now that we have the newly formed toilet, it has become convenient for me and the children, says Janmoni.
When a baseline survey was conducted in 2012 under the Swachh Bharat Mission to identify households who could avail the toilet subsidy, nearly 20,000 families were left out due to several reasons.
Talking to NDTV Mr Mittal, says,
Between 2012 and 2016, several new houses were built in the district and they continued to use kutcha toilet or defecated in open. Considering that the government is building toilets for all those families listed in the baseline survey, we had to come up with new initiatives.
Since most of the families without toilet hailed from economically weaker section of the society, the idea of donating a toilet was initiated by Mr Mittal.
The whole concept of Devalayas (donating in religious places) is widely acknowledged in our culture. To attain spiritual purity of soul, people generally offer items like ghee, milk, oil or permanent assets like tables, chairs, drinking water facilities, etc. But no one thinks of donating a toilet as it is non-glamorous, says Mr Mittal.
The DC along with this administration in their awareness campaign towards building toilets drew similarities between Devalayas and Shauchalayas,
Giving a toilet is a durable donation as it can go a long way in preventing air and water borne diseases. We identify potential donors who are in a position to make that kind of donation and personally conduct a meeting with them.
The first toilet donation was made my Mr Mittal who believes practising what he preaches. After him, many district officials followed the suit and set an example for the residents.
Shedding light on the task of convincing people to make a toilet donation, Mr Mittal adds, “The biggest challenge is convincing people to donate. They understand the cause, sympathise the situation but generally fall back when it comes to donation. Jorhat administration is trying to tackle this challenge by trying to set examples and showcasing the success stories. As Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see’.”
If anyone is willing to take part in the campaign, he/she can simply approach the administration and express his commitment. The administration will then offer the donor to either take the responsibility of constructing the toilet or sanction the amount to any local NGO which will look after the toilet building process.
The campaign, which was started in May last year, has till now seen a total donation of 256 toilets. From donating toilet in the memory of their late parents to making a donation on occasions like birthday, people are whole-heartedly taking part in this initiative.
Besides individual donations, companies like ONGC have shown interest in the Daan movement. The aim is to reach 1,000 toilets by June this year.
To keep the momentum going, the administration routinely takes public meeting to laud the efforts of donors. Appreciation letters are also given for their charitable contributions and their names are inked on beneficiary’s toilet door as well. The district has also come out with two short documentaries filming the initiative and recording donors and beneficiaries views. The films shall be used to motivate people to join the movement.