Dhar village aims at Nirmal Gram status | india | Hindustan Times
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Dhar village aims at Nirmal Gram status

IT IS not yet dawn in Jabra village, situated 22 km from the tehsil headquarters of Badnawar in neighbouring tribal district of Dhar. But, braving the biting winter chill, the vigilance committee comprising female Sarpanch Raj Kunwar Jat and others, armed with torches and lathis are out patrolling the village. Not to guard against looters, but to put to shame those defecating in the open.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2007 20:13 IST

IT IS not yet dawn in Jabra village, situated 22 km from the tehsil headquarters of Badnawar in neighbouring tribal district of Dhar. But, braving the biting winter chill, the vigilance committee comprising female Sarpanch Raj Kunwar Jat and others, armed with torches and lathis are out patrolling the village. Not to guard against looters, but to put to shame those defecating in the open.

In a country where 80 per cent of the rural population still prefers, or is forced to, defecate in the open, it was, grossly put, shit and its accompanying stink that was standing in way of the village becoming a ‘Nirmal Gram’ – a village where both personal and community hygiene are de rigueur.

If the overseeing UNICEF and Central Government officials give their nod – then the Rs 2 lakh cash prize could be in their bag, to be received by the Sarpanch from the President of the country.

For Raj Kunwar, a chance visit to Indore during a Sarpanch sammelan in August 2006, and seeing a short film on the success story of village Bachora – the first Nirmal Gram in Madhya Pradesh in Depalpur tehsil - fuelled her imagination. “If Bachora can do it, why not Jabra,” she says with a confidence that belies her age – only 26.

But it was a tough ask, Raj Kunwar told Hindustan Times. “Habits of generations die hard, but we had created such a wave for the movement that whatever little resistance there was, was swept aside.” This was done through street corner plays enacted by the school children, posters and wall writings extolling the virtues of  hygiene. And, for those really stubborn, there were arm-twisting tactics – threatening confiscation of the ration card or the job card. However, for some it was a genuine problem.

Like Ambaram Nanuram, a poor tribal villager. He vomited every time he went inside the toilet constructed with a Central Government aid component of Rs 1,200 - the remaining money coming as advance from the panchayat, and deducted from the money received under the Rozgar Guarantee Scheme.

 “It took us a lot of time to persuade Ambaram, but now he, along with the 200 odd families in the village, all have toilets.”

The vigilance committee still does its rounds, but there are no offenders. And the village paints a picture of cleanliness – neat, cemented lanes, with functioning drains, clean household, a dustbin in front of every house, which is cleared every morning by the sweeper.  At one point the sweeper also demanded his pound of flesh. “He demand advance of Rs 25,000 or refused to clean the drains,” said deputy Sarpanch Bharatlal Jat, “But we refused to succumb to his blackmail and started cleaning the drains ourselves, putting him to shame.”

Jabra is not the only village in Badnawar tehsil gunning for Nirmal Gram status – there are several others, but along with Jabra, work in two others, Bhakatpura and Ritora in Badnawar - incidentally both led by female Sarpanchs, Jhalki Bai Damor and Bhagwanti Bai  - are the frontrunners.

The story and picture in Bhakatpura is similar. Though illiterate, Jhalki Bai Damor has galvanised the villagers into action. “Thankfully, we did not have much resistance, and we don’t have a vigilance committee, for everyone has understood the benefits of hygiene.’’

Says Dhar District Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Dr Navneet Kothari, “It has become a movement in entire Dhar district. Last year there were none, but this year 69 gram panchayats are aiming for Nirmal Gram status and we are sure that 10 of them will pass muster.”