- The students helped construct 230 toilets in 9 Mohali villages
- The students would go door-to-door to campaign about toilets
- The group was awarded the Young Achievers award by the Panjab University
The villagers in many of Mohali’s villages had some unexpected visitors every morning for the last 6 months. Every morning, five students of Panjab University’s Centre for Social Work would visit many villages in Mohali and would begin their daily routine of coercing the villagers into building toilets, not defecating in the open and urging to maintain overall cleanliness. These five young students traveled from one village to the other during early morning hours, to try and bring about a habitual change among people. They have been successful in convincing the villagers of 9 villages to build around 230 toilets.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is nothing short of a revolution. However, many villages and towns still remain unaware of the importance of good sanitation practices, because the message hasn’t reached them yet. That is precisely what we are doing, reaching out with the message, said Arashdeep Kaur, a postgraduate student from the Department of Social Work.
The Department of Social Work at the university had collaborated with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of Punjab. The villages of Mohali had sanitation coverage of merely 49 per cent till last year. The four students Sudhir Kumar, Arashdeep Kaur, Shishpal Seokant, Jeevandeep Singh and Ramneet Singh, decided to spread information among the villagers about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and how it was making construction of toilets easier. For the last six months, the five students went over to 9 villages early in the morning to engage with the villagers.
The first step was to explain how the mechanism of toilet construction worked. Many villagers were under the misconception that the construction of toilets would be too expensive. Others were of the opinion that installing a soak pit in the house would result in the entire house stinking. The five students conducted makeshift workshops where they invited the villagers to improve their understanding of sanitation, toilet construction and open defecation. In these workshops, the whole cycle of toilet building under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was explained to the villagers, including how each beneficiary would receive Rs. 15,000 in three installments from the Union Government for constructing toilets. They were also explained about how the twin pit soak system works and that there was no fear of any stench spreading in the house.
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We realised that a majority of the villagers did not know either about the toilets or about the benefits that the Swachh Bharat Mission was providing to people for toilet installation. When we started speaking to them, they gradually realised that having toilets at home is a necessity for sanitation and health. After the first three months, we encountered many enthusiastic villagers who asked us for help with toilet construction, said Jeevandeep Singh, another student of the group.
From November 2016 onwards, some of the villagers began the construction of toilets in their home premises. They were aided and advised by the group of five, along with district officials who monitored the progress continuously. By April 2017, 230 toilets were built in 9 villages across Mohali.
The team went from village to village and provided information to the villagers on how toilets are constructed and where can they avail the money for construction. We also arranged for health kits to be given to the villagers. These kits contained basic hygiene and sanitation products like soaps and toothpaste so that the villagers could adhere to basic sanitation practices, said Gaurav Gaur, Assistant Professor, Panjab University.
For their successful effort, the students have been awarded the Young Achievers award by the Panjab University.
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