Nowadays, most of us are talking about the ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) mission and sharing photos of cleaning activities and toilet construction. It all started on October 2, 2014, on Gandhi ji’s birthday, when Narendra Modi launched the ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission. The objective of this mission is to make India an open defecation free country. A lot of innovative ideas have been incorporated in this flagship program.
Why do we need to eliminate open defecation from India? Because it causes many diseases, such as diarrhea, malaria, and others. There are also other problems related to open defecation, which many people don’t know about. For instance, open defecation practices could have a negative impact on children’s cognitive skills. It also stunts the growth of children and causes malnutrition. Also, other social problems often spring up in rural areas due to open defecation. There are several cases of molestation. It happens when young girls go to the field for open defecation.
Many instances of rape and molestation occur in Bihar, when women they go out to defecate in the open. These problems and issues will be solved only when everyone has regular access to toilets.
Toilet construction is not only the solution – we need to ensure the regular usage of a toilet. For that, we have to bring behavioural change so that people use toilets regularly. This is the core objective of the mission, which was not incorporated in previous schemes.
Due to poverty, many households are not able to afford toilets, even though they realise the consequences of open defecation. For these people, the government is offering an incentive amount to build toilets.
But, in my opinion, they have to build twin pit toilets. Why twin pit toilets? Before we get to that, everyone should know the disadvantages of using a toilet with a septic tank.
To build a proper septic tank, a beneficiary needs a lot of money, which is hard for poor people to afford. After a few years, septic tanks get filled. To remove fecal matter from a septic tank, a septic tank cleaning vehicle will arrive and remove the fecal matter. This fecal matter has to be safely disposed at a sewage treatment plantation (STP). But this does not happen in reality. Many drivers of such vehicles dispose the fecal matter in the fields, water bodies or in an open place. So, it spoils the water bodies and causes many diseases. To avoid all these practical issues, the government has discouraged building septic tank toilets. Instead of this, twin pit toilets are being promoted across the country, wherever they are implementable.
Twin pit toilets are scalable, implementable and cost-effective. So, they are being implemented across India through the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission.
Prime Minister has been putting in immense effort to make this mission impactful. Thus, sanitation has become one of the key priorities of many state governments. Government institutions, private players, social activists and young professionals are involved in the mission. By ensuring safe sanitation practices in rural areas, they are working at the grassroots.
I am one of the young professionals involved in the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission. I’m working in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu. In our district, we are promoting twin pit toilets by creating awareness about them and implementing them in rural areas.
For the last six months, I have witnessed the impact of twin pit toilets have hFor the last six months, I have witnessed the impact of twin pit toilets have had in the context of making rural India a clean and hygienic place to live in.ad in the context of making rural India a clean and hygienic place to live in. Twin pit toilets are very easy to make and use. They have two pits, and each pit is 3.5 feet depth-wise and have a 1-metre diameter. The distance between the two pits should also be 1 meter.
When people start using these toilets, fecal matter will be allowed to go and settle in one pit only. After four to five years, the first pit, which is filled by now, will be converted into manure. A beneficiary can remove that compost and use it for plants. After this, the first pit will be emptied. After a few years, the second pit will be filled and then the fecal matter will be transferred to the first pit.
Everyone can easily construct these twin pits within the incentive amount of ₹12,000. In order to make our district open defecation free, we are involved in activities that focus on behavioural change. Along with this, we are creating an awareness of twin pit toilets and constructing such toilets simultaneously. For breaking myths about twin pit toilets, the secretary of drinking water and sanitation went down into the pit and removed the compost converted from fecal matter by his hand. The same has been done by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar. The same is being done by district collectors and district officers.
We also did the same in our district. Our project director, Thiru V Jayakumar, who is the head of the district’s rural development agency, went to one village panchayat. He identified a beneficiary, who has been using a twin pit toilet for four years. He called all the villagers and opened the twin pit toilet before them. Then, he went down into the pit and removed the compost from the pit.
By doing this, he broke the myth many people have about twin pits. Initially, people wondered why the district level officer is doing this then they realised the importance of having a twin pit toilet. After this incident, most of the people shed their doubts and came forward to have twin pit toilets built. We have attached one motivator in every panchayat, who is facilitating the building of twin pit toilets with the people of the community.
We are also involving other departments in sanitation activities, like education, rural development, social welfare and health department. School children are our vital agents for change. They create awareness about toilets among the rural community through interpersonal communication (IPC).
Many sanitation activities, training for motivators and school students, essay and drawing competitions regarding toilet usage have been conducted in our district. In order to ensure the regular usage of toilets, we have issued sanitation cards to every household, through which we are monitoring toilet usage.
Anganwadi workers, school teachers and students, village health nurses, motivators from self-help groups are our agents of change, involved in creating a demand for twin pit toilets. Banners of twin pit toilets are kept at every government institution in our district like the collector’s office, primary healthcare facilities, schools and panchayat offices. We are trying our best to make Kanchipuram an open defecation free district.
We all should contribute to make India an open defecation free country. Add your contribution to convert this scheme into a people’s movement. We have to create a better environment for future generations. It is high time we ensured a good and healthy life for everyone by practicing safe sanitation.