Mumbai: On the morning of the World Toilet Day on November 19, people in Uttar Pradesh’s Firozabad district gathered in large numbers near a toilet pit to witness, what they called, a miracle. Many villagers from Wajidpur village even placed friendly bets on whether two of India’s top babus or bureaucrats would actually clean a toilet. Amidst the jibber jabber of people, Param Iyer, Secretary Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog, picked up their respective shovels and started to dig out the human waste-turned-compost from a local twin pit toilet. Within the next few minutes, the entire toilet pit was emptied, and the compost was handed over to the village panchayat.
The objective behind the entire exercise was simple – to tell people that cleaning toilets is completely healthy and safe. Since the act of emptying a pit latrine is considered to be socially degrading, people do not construct toilets at home and prefer to defecate in the open. To eliminate the shame and stigma associated with usage of toilets and help people embrace the toilet culture, the district administration marked World Toilet Day by inviting people who are highly educated.
On #WorldToiletDay emptied the twin pit toilet, participated in Toilet Panchayat and gave toilet kits and #SwachhBharat blazers to field workers in Wajidpur village, Firozabad district of UP. Extremely satisfying experience to see the commitment of people particularly ladies &children, tweeted Mr Kant.
On #WorldToiletDay emptied the twin pit toilet,participated in Toilet Panchayat & gave toilet kits & #SwachhBharat blazers to field workers in Wajidpur village,Ferozabad district of UP. Extremely satisfying experience to see the commitment of people particularly ladies &children pic.twitter.com/THi5kNyhe5
— Amitabh Kant (@amitabhk87) November 19, 2018
Thanking Mr Kant for being part of the initiative, Mr Iyer said, “Great to have @amitabhk87 joins us in emptying the closed pit of a twin pit toilet in Wajidpur village, Ferozabad district, UP this morning on the occasion of World Toilet Day.”
Great to have @amitabhk87 joins us in emptying the closed pit of a twin pit toilet in Wajidpur village, Ferozabad district, UP this morning on the occasion of #WorldToiletDay. @swachhbharat pic.twitter.com/hlPjf9ls8P
— Param Iyer (@paramiyer_) November 19, 2018
Why Is There A Stigma Around Twin Pit Toilets
A regular toilet has a septic tank that is attached to it. It is made of concrete, fibreglass, PVC or plastic, into which domestic wastewater (sewage) flows. After a few years, when the septic tank gets filled, it needs to be emptied by a special septic tank cleaning vehicle that pumps out the faecal matter which has to then be safely disposed of at a sewage treatment plant. However, this does not happen in many cases as vehicle operators dispose the waste into fields, water bodies or open spaces, contaminating those areas, and increasing the threat of diseases in the surrounding areas.
As solution to the problem, the government is encouraging twin pit toilets, especially in rural areas. Unlike the conventional toilets, the twin pit toilets comprise two pits, each measuring 3.5 feet deep and one metre in diameter. When twin pit toilets are used, fecal matter will be allowed to pass and settle in one pit only. When that pit is filled up in about four to five years, the channel to the first pit is closed and the second opened for the fecal matter to pass into. After one-year rest period, the content of the first pit will be converted into manure and can be removed and used for plants. The same procedure is followed when the second pit gets filled.
Clearing the myths and misconceptions around the twin pit toilets during the event, District Magistrate Neha Sharma said that people are often discouraged to construct twin pit toilets after they get to know the entire process. They feel that they will have to clear the pit by coming in contact with the human waste. However, she said, that the activity by the bureaucrats will encourage many people to have their own twin pits.
In his World Toilet Day message, Swachh India ambassador Amitabh Bachchan also urged people to build twin pit toilets and convert their single pit toilets
Bureaucrats Preside Over Toilet Parliament
After emptying the pits, Mr Kant and Mr Iyer presided over the ‘Toilet Parliament’, one-of-its-kind initiative established by the Firozabad administration. In 2014 when Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched, like most of the districts Firozabad also struggled to attain the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. After the district realised that most of the newly built toilets turn dirty and unhygienic within days of its construction, it came up with the idea of putting the onus of its cleanliness on villagers.
Toilet Parliament was introduced to serve dual purpose of self-governance – construct latrines and make common citizens accountable for its cleanliness and hygiene. Villagers, who are democratically elected to the parliament, monitor the ODF-related activities and prepare monthly reports for the civic administration.
MDWS Secretary, Shri @paramiyer_ and @NITIAayog CEO, Mr. @amitabhk87 emptied a toilet pit & participated in "Toilet Parliament" in Vajidpur Village in #Firozabad #UP. The village has attained an ODF status and is moving towards #ODF plus activities.#SustainingSwachhBharat pic.twitter.com/lgjoegAEzq
— Swachh Bharat I #AzadiKaAmritMahotsav (@swachhbharat) November 19, 2018
With construction of 1.25 lakh toilets since 2014, Firozabad was decalred ODF in June this year. Since 80 per cent of the toilets constructed are single-pit toilets, the process of converting them into twin-pits will take time. The administration declared that the process will begin only after awareness activities are carried out across the district.
The two bureaucrats presided over the parliament session in which they cleared people’s doubt about toilet construction and told them about the benefits of toilets. Under the guidance of the Mr Kant and Mr Iyer, the toilet parliament committee even passed six resolutions to sustain their ODF status and make the village plastic-free.
With CEO NITI @amitabhk87 at the Toilet Sabha in Wajidpur village, Ferozabad district this morning on the occasion of World Toilet Day. This was the @swachhbharat jan andolan in action! Village passed 6 resolutions including sustaining ODF status and becoming plastic free. pic.twitter.com/eZHuuYH4mL
— Param Iyer (@paramiyer_) November 19, 2018
The six sustainable resolutions include the following:
- ODF sustenance and levy of a fine on any open defecator
- Conversion of single pits to twin pit toilets
- Construction of soak-pits (a covered, porous-walled chamber that allows water to slowly soak into the ground) in all septic tanks
- Promotion of composting in each village for Solid Waste Management
- Elimination of plastic usage
- Organic fertilisers to be used by everyone in the district
Post the event, the administration continued its World Toilet Day activities, – from carrying out rallies on cleanliness to holding discussions with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) about the challenges they face in implementing toilet usage.
As World Toilet Day Campaign, Swachhta Rallies &Pledges are conducted by Swachhagrahis,Block Motivators &District Coordinators in most of the GPs with active participation of the School Students & Villagers @swachhbharat @PMOIndia @paramiyer_ @CMOfficeUP @sbmgup @anandshekhar73 pic.twitter.com/yOQbHeFHpb
— Swachh Firozabad (@SwachhFirozabad) November 17, 2018
Aao Shauchalay ki Baat Karein, an interactive session with the SHG Women about the ODF movement & contribution in it , the challenges faced by them and how they overcome it #WorldToiletDay @swachhbharat @PMOIndi @paramiyer_ @amitabhk87 @CMOfficeUP @sbmgup @anandshekhar73 pic.twitter.com/fIIJH8Urmf
— Swachh Firozabad (@SwachhFirozabad) November 19, 2018
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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.