Rajender Sharma Of Banwariwas in Jewar

‘Swachh Bharat Toilets Called Izzat-ghar’

Rajender Sharma, 46, a farmer from Banwariwas in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh, says that toilets made under Swachh Bharat scheme are called ‘Izzat-ghar’ (house of honour) in his village as they provide the residents comfort and privacy

When people in my village had to relieve themselves, going out to the fields was the most obvious choice. After all, this had been going on for so long that it was somewhat a tradition. Some village elders had never been to a toilet their entire lives. But last year, things changed. 

All those who did not have a toilet, received a grant of ₹12,000 under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for constructing toilets inside the premises of our residence. The toilets are called, ‘Izzat-ghar’ (house of honour).

There are about 1,000 houses in the Banwariwas village. Only a handful had a toilet prior to 2018. I still remember when the first toilet was constructed, under the Swachh Bharat scheme, many villagers came to have a look. The name Izzat-ghar which was scribbled above the door of the toilet. This prompted many villagers to apply for the scheme. Soon after, I think within a span of three-four months, all those who did not have a toilet, applied for it and got their toilets made.

In the beginning, the elderly people still preferred to go out to the fields to attend nature’s call. They later came to realise the benefits of a toilet. The toilets provided them shelter from rain, cold and heat and so they were forced to shun the age-old habit of going out to the fields. 

Women of the village are the ones, who are really happy with the initiative. Earlier, they went out to the fields in groups, in the wee hours of the morning, away from prying eyes, to relieve themselves. But izzat-ghars have provided them with the privacy and comfort that they had been denied for long. Young boys and girls too, can now walk with their heads held high as they don’t need to go in the fields anymore. These toilets have helped us shape their future.

The primary source of income in the village is farming. Since farming is not a very profitable business, most of the villagers could not afford to construct toilets. 

The Swachh Bharat Initiative made an impossible dream possible. And making dreams possible is fairly simple. All one has to do is contact the local pradhan, MLA or block development officer with an application. Our MLA, Thakur Dhirdendra Singh had helped us in getting the grants for toilet. The government doesn’t make toilets, it provides grant of ₹12,000 to the applicants. The applicants will have to construct the toilet with this fund by hiring a mason and labourers. If one wishes to construct an attached bath, one just needs to put in money from his/her own pocket. 

We are grateful to the government for the initiative.


#MyVote2019 – ‘I Have Full Faith In Modi’

Pawan Kumar Mandal, 34, Furniture Store Owner Deoghar, Jharkhand   I started taking an active interest in politics after Modiji came to power. I heard his speeches and I felt that he was speaking to me directly. He made me feel that my voice mattered too. His voice resonates with the masses and that is the reason why I would want him to become the Prime Minister once again. The Modi government’s Swachha Bharat campaign has worked, at least in my mohalla at Tiwari Chowk in Deoghar. There has been a marked difference in the way the waste is managed here now. Earlier, garbage would be left on the roadsides to rot and would be picked up after a gap of many, many days. But now, the municipality workers come every day at a fixed time to pick up the garbage. The street lights here are working and the women in my family feel safe to venture outside at night. I’m a shop-owner and I was pretty inconvenienced by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) when it was introduced. I suffered losses in the beginning because nobody was really able to understand the sudden rise in the prices of goods, the new billing invoices etc. But the sales tax officer of our area turned out to be a saviour. He helped all the shop owners in my area get acquainted with the process. In turn, we were able to explain the new tax structure to our customers. I am a happy man now and have no regrets about voting for Modiji. He wishes the good for the country and his actions mean business. Detractors often argue about the ‘disastrous demonetisation’ but I believe the decision was a step in the right direction. People will now think twice before hoarding money. I am not going to get into the other details of demonetization because, frankly, it is a vast topic and I am not really an expert. Petrol prices of late have definitely been bothersome. But I do not let that bother me. I like how Modiji is leading the country and would want him to continue. I don’t hate the leaders of the Opposition parties, but you can say that I love Modiji’s personality more. He has the qualities of a true leader. I sometimes wish I could be as decisive as he is. Rahul Gandhi, I feel, still has a long way to go before he can even think of leading the country. His heart is in the right place, but he lacks the spark.]]>

#MyVote2019 – 'Modi Is Good, Quota Isn't'

Pradeep Kumar, 28, Employed With An Apparel Brand, in New Delhi   First things first: Modi ji ke aane se fayda to hua hai (Narendra Modi has been beneficial for the country). The thing that has impressed me the most is his dedication towards a cleaner India. Many youngsters like me think twice before littering and I have seen government offices taking cleanliness more seriously as well. Such campaigns appeal to a civilised citizen. Besides, work is getting done now. In my native state, Uttarakhand, there have been commendable infrastructural activity. The work on the all-weather road connecting the famous chhota chaar dham, namely Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, is on in full flow. Earlier, the roads used to be in a poor condition in many areas in Uttarakhand, especially during monsoons, but the connectivity is much better these days. Of late, many people are talking about the Modi government’s decision to allocate 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections among the upper castes. It doesn’t impact me since I am not a government job aspirant and I already have a job. Frankly, I don’t believe in quota system in employment. Getting a job is about how much drive, confidence and sincerity you have in yourself. Reservation or not, those who have the drive will carve a successful career. I do understand that there are remote areas where people don’t get the opportunity for equal education. That part of reservation policy is fine but it has to stop after a point. On a personal levels, many of Modiji’s decisions that people criticise didn’t affect me directly. I didn’t suffer during demonetisation, though it was tough to see many others stand in long queues. The rise in petrol prices hasn’t affected me much since I don’t have a private vehicle and always travel by public transport. In fact more people have started using public transport, as I see the vehicles getting more crowded. But isn’t that a good thing? Thus, I believe Modiji is currently the best bet we have for a Prime Minister. I don’t see any other leader in close competition. Mujhe nahi lagta ki Rahul Gandhi me PM waali quality hai (I do not think Rahul Gandhi has the virtues to become prime minister of India). Every time I have heard him speak, his focus has been more on what the government has done wrong. He is silent on what his remedy is. He should also speak about what his party will do when it comes to power. Mere hisab se unhe abhi bahut kuch sikhne ki jarurat hai (He needs to learn a lot). So, overall, I want Modiji to come back to power in 2019. There may be many things that need to be changed about his governance style but I think he has done a good job so far in his current term as the leader of the nation.  ]]>

The absent CSR in Swachh Bharat

By Nipun Vinayak A Swachh marathon conducted by the Dettol company, Reckitt Benckiser, in collaboration with NDTV, as part of the Swachch Banega India project, takes the discussion on sanitation into the drawing rooms of the middle and upper classes. With brand ambassadors like Amitabh Bachchan hosting the show, people look up and watch. Naina Lal Kidwai, Chair, India Sanitation coalition, an industry association “to bring organisations and individuals under one platform for promoting sanitation” speaks at the World Water Week in Stockholm on Swachh Bharat, pushing for higher budgets for water and sanitation, and stating that achieving ODF (open defecation free) is the collective responsibility of the entire nation, not just the government. Beyond this glamour and highly-published events, however, what is the real contribution of the corporate world to Swachch Bharat? It is not easy to answer this question. There is lack of consolidated data on the contribution of the corporate world to Swachh Bharat. A portal on the website of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs provides for collection of information in this regard — which remains unfilled. Maybe the portal did not get publicised enough for every one to know about it. Even if it was, would information have trickled in? FICCI, at the beginning of Swachh Bharat, made tall commitments to the Prime Minister’s Office on its intention of contributing to the movement. Two years down the line, it remains non-responsive on the fulfilment of those commitments. The only worthwhile contribution made centrally by the corporate sector was in the field of school toilets — and that too mostly by the public sector undertakings (which probably had little choice). At the decentralised levels of districts and states, the corporate sector might have helped in Swachh Bharat, though one does not get to hear very many examples. In Sibasagar, corporates responded well to Collector Virendra Mittal’s call to “donate a toilet”. In Ludhiana, Bharti Airtel built a number of toilets for the people. In hindsight, many of those toilets were built without carrying out concomitant behavioural change, and therefore their use remained doubtful. The government initiated a Swachh Bharat Kosh, a Trust for collecting contributions from individuals and corporates and deemed the contributions a valid CSR activity exempt from income tax. Still, contribution to this Trust remaines lukewarm. Two things seem critical for a genuine contribution by the corporate sector to Swachh Bharat. One is belief in, and understanding of, the community approach propagated by Swachh Bharat. Two, a readiness to plug the “missing gaps” in the overall ODF plan of the district administration. The former has happened to an extent. The term ODF is now widely used, and the community approach is ingrained in the ODF concept itself. Its understanding, however, may vary and there is something amiss when a company offers to construct “x” number of toilets as a stand-alone activity. Bereft of a community behaviour change plan, this may not bear fruit, and money will — literally — go down the drain. Secondly, the ODF plan for a village comprises multiple activities. A company may take up, in consultation with, and upon suggestion by, the district administration, any of these activities. In case no such plan exists, or if the plan is deficient in terms of behavior change component, it may not shy away from proactively calling upon the administration to make/rectify such a plan. And participate only when such a plan is in place. Besides these two issues, there can be a few more pitfalls. One is the desire for returns in lieu of contributions. Many a times, such a desire is in the form of creating genuine goodwill towards the company. This, however, restricts the geographical area where the corporate can contribute. Promotion of one’s own brand sometimes takes precedence over work, belying the general principle of service propagated by Sant Tukdoji Maharaaj in Gramgita: True service is not for one’s own name. He who is selfish is not a true servant. Sometimes, Swachh Bharat is slated as a “business opportunity”. “People make a lot of money dealing in shit,” it is said. The Economic Times carried a headline on December 23, 2016: “Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser rides on Swachh Bharat, posts handsome growth of 14%”. Another company, after spending some CSR funds for sanitation, wanted the ministry to promote their appliances. While sanitation may have benefitted a few people, one needs to understand whether the primary motive of Swachh Bharat is to change the behaviour of people, leading them to adopt safe sanitation practices, or to promote some business models, benefiting a few. In the former approach, companies dealing with sanitation products may anyway benefit; however, that will be incidental and not primary to the cause. In the latter approach, the focus may shift to artificial reasons for insanitation — such as lack of good technology — and behaviour change will take a back seat. This may lead to profits for some companies, but no improvement in sanitation. A shared value, that good sanitation benefits all, can be the mantra for everyone, including corporates. And that is immense. There have been some worthwhile efforts by corporates. The contribution of Tata Trust must be mentioned. It sponsored a young professional — called Zilla Swachh Bharat Prerak — to work in each district of India and help the Collector achieve an ODF district. Although there was some scepticism about the usefulness of this initiative earlier, the enthusiasm, energy and fresh ideas of these young professionals seem to have greatly helped the programme. Collaboration with corporates requires a renewed push. Despite some odd references to the role of some corporates in the freedom struggle, one does not come across any significant testimony to support the premise that corporates did play a major role in that struggle. A freedom struggle from shit is now happening. And this history will again be written. One hopes corporates will not let go this opportunity. (IANS)]]>