From starting a rural sanitary mart selling toilet construction material on credit, to setting up vigilante committees for disciplining people defecating in the open, Rampur’s panchayat tried everything to make the village 100 percent free of open defecation. Nirmala Devi, the 60-year-old mukhiya (sarpanch) of the Bihar village, and her ingenious use of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, helped them to achieve their objective in just four months. The panchayat has set an impressive example with its safe sanitation practices. Nirmala’s team started its job with first identifying the number of households without toilets and bringing this to the attention of the Water and Sanitation Department. This was followed by an extensive counselling programme for all households in the area. Further, team members spoke about the importance of having toilets in homes and focused on spreading awareness, especially among the women.
PURIFYING THE GANGA
He cremates unclaimed cadavers found floating in the Ganges and helps activate non functioning sewage treatment plants along its course, Vikas Chandra better known as Guddu Baba has dedicated himself to cleaning up the holy river. “Millions of people revere her as Ganga Ma, we need to make her sacred again,” he stresses. His crusade for a cleaner river started with the Ganga Bachao Andolan in 2000. The aim was to draw the attention of the authorities towards the appalling condition of the holy river — the sewage, the filth, the floating dead bodies. He even went on a 48-hour fast in Patna to highlight the cause. Later, he organised various campaigns and rallies in order to drum up public support. His efforts were not in vain, especially after he filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the Patna High Court in July 2000, holding the State and the Centre and their respective government departments responsible for the reprehensible condition of the river.
SWINGING SOCIAL CHANGE
OF the 15 million people in western Rajasthan, 79 percent lead extremely impoverished lives in villages. The preference for male offspring to continue the family line and earn for the family means neglect of the girl child. She is considered a burden as traditionally she was not allowed to earn a living and was thus ‘married off’ as soon as possible by paying the groom a huge dowry. The only saving grace for these girls is that a lot of child brides continue to live with their parents till they attain the age of 15, after which they are sent to their husband’s house. Under such grim circumstances, Veerni brought a ray of sunshine. A non-profit organisation based in Jodhpur, Veerni was founded in early 1990 by Jacqueline de Chollet, a Swiss national, for the betterment of young girls. The organisation helps these child brides gain access to education, healthcare, water and sanitation. And they seem to enjoy it, judging from the picture.
ONLY FOR THE BIRDS
Ashok Sonule and his family struggle every day to feed 12 family members. But, whereas most farmers in the vicinity have barren fields, his are lush with jowar. And what does he do with the produce? Feed the entire harvest to birds. He also ensures the water bowl is always full for the thirsty birds. In a situation where farmers find it tough to feed themselves and their families, he leaves his entire crop in the field for the birds. Sonule is a farm labourer in Gadmudshingi village, which is about 15 km from Kolhapur, Maharashtra. His sons Prakash and Vilas and brother Balu also work as labourers on other’s farms in order to feed the large joint family. They own a small piece of barren land, just 0.25 acres, which has never earned them even one meal due to scarcity of water. Nearby farms too hardly yield any substantial crop.