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Swachh Warriors

10 Swachhagrahis Who Inspired The Country With Their Contribution Towards Swachh Bharat Abhiyan In 2018

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan may have been introduced by the government but its success belongs to the citizens who contributed tirelessly for the well-being of their community, here are 10 Swachhagrahis whose efforts towards propagating safe sanitation and hygiene got recognition in 2018 from Government of India


New Delhi: “A clean India would be the best tribute our country could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he launched the Swachh Bharat Mission on 2nd October 2, 2014. Over the last 4 years, the mission has picked up pace and as government says turned into a national movement, with people from all walks of life doing their bit. One of the key successes of the Abhiyan are the Swachh heroes who have emerged across India. Swachhgrahis, as they are now famous as, are swachh warriors who are championing the cause of sanitation and hygiene in India and giving the much need impetus to the programme and help sustain it.

PM Modi, in an event organised to conclude the campaign Champaran Satyagraha, ‘Chalo Champaran – From Satyagraha to Swachhagraha’ lauded the efforts by awarding ten Swachhagrahis (sanitation motivators) who have performed outstandingly in their villages and set a benchmark for others, this year. The swachhagrahis from across the country are promoting Community Approaches to Sanitation (CAS) to motivate the communities to adopt collective behaviour change.

A. Ramesh – Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh


This Swachhagrahi started his journey by building a toilet at his own home after a voluntary organisation gave a presentation in his village about the diseases  that can spread due to open defecation. From there, Ramesh actively contributed to the process of making his village ODF and continued to support the Mandal administration in community mobiliSation activities. He acted as a role model by working with the community to ensure that toilet construction material is available.

His close engagement with the community helped him win their confidence for daily monitoring, resolving issues being faced during construction, reporting the ground level problems to the officials concerned and getting them resolved. Due to Ramesh’s unwavering efforts, his district is ODF today, and they are witnessing decreasing health problems and increasing productivity. Thanks to Ramesh’s efforts, the village now has 506 toilets from a mere 45 before he started his mission. Along with this, Chittoor district achieved ODF title this year on April 1 with construction of close to 4 lakh (3,80,339) toilets.

I built 400 toilets and to ensure that people make use of these toilets I used to visit common defecation spots, both in the morning and evening, of all the six villages in the gram panchayat. If someone was found defecating in the open, I would ask them the reason behind not using toilets and counsel them, says A. Ramesh.

Read More About A Ramesh: ‘First Motivate Yourself To Use Toilet And Then Encourage Others’, Says 38-Year-Old Swachhagrahi From Andhra Pradesh Who Made His Village Open Defecation Free

Ateeq Ahmad – Bijnor district, Uttar Pradesh

Ateeq Ahmad is not only a Swachhata Champion, but also a behaviour change communication Champion. Hailing from Bijnor district in Uttar Pradesh, Ahmad, A teacher and professor by profession, is a proponent of CAS as he has trained and encouraged many other motivators. With the understanding that generic communication tools can’t induce behaviour change, he created posters, booklets, brochures and more, using examples relatable to local culture and context. While his tools have created the necessary impact in his block, they are now being scaled up at the state level, especially the Swachhata song, a booklet on the ‘Key Steps of Triggering’ and a couple of short movies on the issue of sanitation.

I have always been passionate about the cause of cleanliness and hygiene and propagated the same to my students. When Swachh Bharat was launched I decided to put my thoughts into practice and make a difference in my district, he says.

Read More About Ateeq AhmadOne Man Army: Meet Ateeq Ahmad From Bijnor Who Helped Turn 15 Villages Open Defecation Free

S. Rajalakshmi – Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu

Alamarathupatty village of Tamil Nadu is ODF only due to the unprecedented commitment and passion of S. Rajalakshmi, an active member of a self-help group. Rajalakshmi participated in numerous sanitation and interpersonal communication activities, and supported many motivators into Master Trainers. She promoted access to toilets as a right, and made community mapping and motivation as her primary tools. Her regular meetings with Village Poverty Reduction Committee (VPRC) members, and awareness drives in schools, led to public drives for toilet construction and usage.

Rinku Kumari – Bihar

She hails from Nalanda district, Bihar and is a passionate Swachhagrahi who was nominated for her hard work for achieving ODF status for her village, panchayat, and later 10 wards in the vicinity. A mobilisation activity towards facilitating the construction of toilets, that takes months, or even years was completed in just two months, thanks to Rinku’s passion and motivation.

Her main aim was to change people’s mind-set and make the community aware about the issues associated with Open Defecation. She held detailed discussions with mothers and elders in the village about the health and economic benefits of constructing and using toilets, successfully, driving a Jan Andolan to construct toilets across villages.

Last year, I attended one swachh bharat abhiyan workshop and that was it. Soon, I started taking more and more workshops in order to learn different techniques so that I can motivate people to construct a basic necessity – a toilet. The villagers are not trained to use a toilet at home, they need to be taught and taught well. If they will face problems, then they will start going out in the fields, as it is an easy option. To change this, wherever I go, I make sure, I am training villagers to construct their own toilet, how to use a toilet and how to keep it clean, Rinku told NDTV.

Read More About Rinku Kumari: Rinku Kumari, A Swachhagrahi Who Helped Construct Over 2000 Toilets In Bihar For The Open Defecation Free Cause

Morish Jaria – Simdega district, Jharkhand


Morish Jaria took it upon himself to make his Panchayat ODF and fully dedicated himself to the cause of safe sanitation. The biggest challenge faced by his panchayat as well as the community was lack of road connectivity, which hampered availability of material for construction. By motivating the community, carrying materials himself using bullock carts or cycles and even by foot in the more remote areas, he actively led the change. He acted as A role model and encouraged his peers to make all possible efforts to construct toilet, and then use them. His selfless work was also recognised by the District Collector, Simdega.

Jupelli Neeraja – Rajana Sircilla district, Telangana

Jupelli Neeraja is not only an active Swachhagrahi but also a passionate ‘Sanitation Champion’. She did all that a Swachhagrahi should do to empower the community members to construct and use toilets. In the beginning, the emphasis was on motivation, mason training, group meeting, and interpersonal communication, and later she shifted the focus to community monitoring. Neeraja led from the front, inspired and personally monitored all the common places of open defecation in her village, every morning. To sustain this momentum, she motivated the villagers to install an innovative method of using two PVC Pipes (6 inches width 1.2 Mtrs. Length) to pour vegetable waste, and converted it to compost manure for homestead gardens & farms.

Monika Ijardar – Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh

Monika Ijardar emerged as one of the most devoted supporters of Community Approaches to Sanitation (CAS), a module introduced by the government focused towards rural India achieving ODF. This well-educated, young girl used the approach successfully to make her village and later the whole Gram Panchayat Open Defecation Free (ODF). But this fervent swachhagrahi didn’t stop at that, she went ahead and used the same approach to mobilise the surrounding villages and Gram Panchayats. It was due to her unrelenting effort that 61 Gram Panchayats became ODF, and her block became the first in the district to become completely Open Defecation Free.

I tried motivating the women and girls of the house – with questions like ‘how can you showcase your private areas to public like that’, ‘why don’t you make a toilet, when you have an option. I have helped more than 1500 families, today they all are enjoying the benefits of having a toilet at home. I won’t stop my fight, today I have made Raigarh free from open defecation, I will make sure more and more district get the benefit of a toilet, Monika told NDTV.

Read More About Monika Ijardar : Swachh Warrior’s Journey Which Began At Age 19, Sees Eradication of Open Defecation In 82 Gram Panchayats And One District In Four Years

Manilal Rana – Banswada district, Rajasthan


45-year-old farmer, Manilal used all the tools available in the armoury of a Swachhagrahi to catalyse behavioural change towards safe sanitation practices and toilet construction. Using motivation, interpersonal communication, village meetings, triggering, and awareness building activities he managed to bring about a huge difference.
He employed advocacy to promote safe (preferred) toilet construction technology viz. twin pit toilets. He turned the whole exercise into a ceremony – every morning, the Sarpanch and Nigrani Samiti members, accompanied by a priest visited households to mark the laying out of twin pit toilet (muhurath karna) construction. This novel practice motivated the households to construct toilets.

When we started the campaign, there were some 280 toilets in the village and we had to build over 700 toilets. I tell people to construct toilets, be disease free and save money on medicines, says Manilal Rana

Read More About Manilal Rana: A Farmer In Rajasthan Builds 780 Toilets In 35 Days To Make His Village Open Defecation Free

Yeshi Wangmu – Tawang district, Arunachal Pradesh


Yeshi Wangmu’s dedication towards the goals of Swachh Bharat Mission has motivated her to continue working to drive behavioural change in the villages of Jang Block – an area where the community members have long had a very negative attitude towards construction and use of toilets. Innumerable Gram-sabha meetings and Information Education and communication (IEC) activities were conducted to increase awareness and mobilise the community.

Not only for individual households, but she also sought wider cooperation from the Panchayati Raj Institution members to make IEC activities more effective. The village and Gram Panchayat are ODF today and the community members attribute this behaviour change to Yeshi’s commitment to the cause.

Everyone has an ability to do something for the country. I didn’t have any resource myself to bring about such a huge change, but I did make some contribution. All you need is dedication and desire to achieve something. I urge all of you who are sitting there, get up and simply talk to people. A lot can change, if you will start spreading the awareness to others, Yeshi told NDTV.

Read More About Yeshi Wangmu: 33-Year-Old Swachh Warrior From Tawang Convinces People To Revamp Their Old Toilets With New Ones

Bonti Saikia – Jorhat district, Assam


Bonti Saikia’s never say die commitment towards making the village and Gram Panchayat ODF is something worth admiring. She left no stone unturned to ensure not just that each and every household had a toilet but used it. With education as her tool, Bonti started going door-to-door and started teaching people who didn’t have a toilet at home about why it is important to get one and the basic rules to follow for a healthy life.

The methods used by Bonti Saikia were simple & persistent, adopted with the sole objective of making the society healthier and better. Today, her Gram Panchayat office is one of the cleanest and well-maintained in the district, and there has been significant decline in diarrhoea cases in the tea gardens of her Gram Panchayat.

I already had a toilet at home, that’s why I knew the benefits of using one. I knew how to use a toilet, how to keep it clean and the basic steps of good hygiene after using a toilet. I thought, I will use my knowledge and educate everyone in the village, so that they can also live a healthy lifestyle, just like me, she told NDTV.

Read More About Bonti Saikia: Seeing Her Village Suffer From Diarrhoea On Regular Basis, This Warrior From Assam Started Her Swachh Crusade

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollutionclean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies

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