- A handwashing unit developed by WaterAid India costs Rs. 260
- Each unit can hold 5 litres of water, sufficient for 12-15 washes
- 950 auto-rickshaws, e-rickshaws in UP have got the handwashing unit
New Delhi: In Lucknow’s Bakshi Ka Talab Nagar Panchayat, an auto-rickshaw pulls down next to a plausible passenger and enquires if he needs a ride. Passenger Shailendra Kumar Gautam decides to take the auto ride to his destination but before he boards the auto, the driver asks him to wash his hands with soap and water. Well aware of the need for hygiene especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Gautam follows the driver’s suggestion and washes his hands using a handwashing unit mounted on the left side of the auto.
Hand hygiene is considered the first line of defence against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. While one can ensure good hand hygiene at a home or office where there is the availability of water and soap but on the go, especially while using public transport, it becomes a tad challenging.
In an attempt to promote handwashing and hygiene, WaterAid India, a non-governmental organisation designed a handwashing unit that can be mounted on auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws and initiated a campaign called ‘Wash On Wheels’.
Sharing his thoughts on the initiative, passenger Shailendra Kumar Gautam said,
It is a good initiative. By ensuring good hand hygiene and washing hands regularly we are doing our bit and contributing in the fight against COVID-19.
The idea was conceived in May when the nation was moving towards phased reopening and the restrictions were being lifted gradually. Talking to NDTV about the concept, Dr Shishir Chandra, Programme Coordinator, WaterAid India and the brain behind the handwashing unit said,
I saw a video on the internet promoting handwashing through a similar concept and it is then I decided to design a workable solution. Back in May, we were under a strict lockdown and almost everyone was scared of contracting COVID-19 so much so that people would consider public transport unsafe. I thought if we could ensure handwashing, one of the COVID precautionary measures, in some way then it might help. To begin with, I discussed the idea with my team and checked the feasibility with auto drivers in the sense if they are interested in adopting this and will they be able to refill the water tank at least twice a day.
Dr Chandra and his team received a positive response from auto drivers who believed that installation of a handwashing unit will attract more passengers and probably make them feel comfortable using public transport.
The team designed an indigenous handwashing unit using PVC pipe, two end caps, and a water tap at a cost of Rs. 260. The 4-inch broad and 2.6-inch-long PVC pipe, with two end caps at its extremities, has a water tap fixed at its lower end. A liquid handwash is secured with tape at the mid-point of the unit. The handwashing unit has a capacity to hold 5 liters of water, sufficient for 12-15 washes.
On a pilot basis, 20 auto-rickshaws in Bakshi Ka Talab and Uttar Pradesh’s Bhadhoi were fitted with the handwashing unit. Sharing the findings of the pilot project, Dr Chandra said,
The pilot project lasted for a week during which we checked the feasibility, durability and collected the response of both passengers and rickshaw drivers. We found the solution workable as you won’t easily find handwashing facility on the road but here we were providing it on the go.
By the month of June, the project was expanded and a total of 950 handwashing units were installed on auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws running on different routes in Uttar Pradesh’s Bakshi ka Talab Nagar Panchayat, Bhadhoi, Chitrakoot, and Fatehpur.
The idea was to provide 100 per cent coverage but in Bhadhoi, when we discussed the idea with Assistant Regional Transport Officer (ARTO), we realised that over 5,000 autos were registered in the last 10 years but there was no data on the number of autos and e-rickshaws currently operating on road. Therefore, we tried to cover the maximum number of vehicles on major routes like Bhadhoi to Allahabad, Bhadhoi to Gopiganj, so on and so forth. This way, 500 units are functional in Bhadhoi, 250 in Bakshi ka Talab and 100 each in Chitrakoot and Fatehpur. We have provided the structure and auto drivers ensure there is enough soap and water, explained Dr Chandra.
To ensure extra safety of both passengers and drivers and avoid multiple contacts, it has been decided that only drivers will open and close the tap. The WaterAid India team extensively monitored Wash On Wheels campaign for 21 days.
It is said that it takes 21 days to make a habit and build a new behavior in your life. We tracked the campaign for 21 days and received an encouraging response. We have the database of all 950 rickshaw drivers and we are in continuous touch with them. They often send us photos and videos of people using the handwashing facility, shared Dr Chandra.
During the lockdown and unlock 1, one auto or e-rickshaw would ferry 15-20 passengers in a day but now with the ease in restrictions and increase in movement, they are getting more passengers, added Dr Chandra.
Lauding the campaign, a passenger from Bhadhoi said,
If everyone will wash their hands before boarding a sharing auto or any public vehicle, it will ensure everyone’s safety and even the safety of our children. I haven’t seen such a facility anywhere else.
Armaan, auto-rickshaw driver from Bakshi ka Talab, informed that people are appreciating the move and added,
A lot of passengers listen to us and wash their hands before sitting in but there are some people who don’t because they are in a hurry to reach somewhere. Overall, the response has been good and I haven’t faced any trouble.
WaterAid India’s initiative in Bhadhoi has been acknowledged by the Limca Book of Records and the team received tremendous support from the district administration and local authorities in all four areas.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.