It’s not a nice way to start the day, caught with the pants down. Or with the clothes up, all ends entangled in the legs.
Residents of Chauthiya village in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district are discovering to their dismay that they will no longer be able to defecate in the open and get away with their unsanitary habit.
Thanks to a novel idea by the woman sarpanch, every time a resident of the village takes that trademark water container and walks towards the fields early in the morning, details of their movements are broadcast ‘live’ on a public address system.
And the running commentary – the villagers start running -- is starting to show results.
A villager, Kachroo Barange, said: “Not only are the names of offenders announced but a running commentary is done on their movements. This truly embarrasses them and most of them have stopped the practice.”
The drastic step was adopted after the panchayat failed to make many a villager use the public or personal toilets built in Chauthiya in the recent past.
“We tried our best to get them to use the toilets. First we started taking photographs of offenders on mobile phones and made them public. Then we tried to convey the message to elders through schoolchildren. But some people continued with this habit. So we decided to try this,” said sarpanch Khusli Bai.
A 12-member committee, which includes women, was formed to spot people who defecate in the open. These members, equipped with torches and mobile phones, inform a “control room” at the panchayat bhawan that announces the names of those defecating in the open.
A fine of Rs 100 is imposed on offenders and their water containers are seized, Khusli Bai said.
“Earlier, this action felt annoying but it forced me to change my habit of open defecation. Due to this commentary, most of the women have started using public toilets,” said Shyama Bai Baraskar, another resident of the village of 238 families.
According to the 2011 census, members of as many as 86.9% of households in Madhya Pradesh defecate in the open.
But Mathew Luckose, Wateraid deputy team leader for MP, said official figures suggest that 35% of rural households have toilets, meaning 65% people resort to defecating in the open.
Prakash Chaudhary, block coordinator for Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (sanitation campaign), said: “It was in Betul that a woman risked her marriage to get a toilet at her home. On the other hand, people are still not changing their habit.”
He was referring to the well-publicised case of Anita Narre of Jheetudhana village in Betul who refused to go to her husband’s home unless a toilet was constructed.
There have been many efforts by the government and non-government agencies to improve the situation but it has been an uphill effort with people failing to understand the negative impact of defecating in the open, said Luckose.
“If people understood what they were losing because of diseases, this problem would be resolved in five years,” he added.