BHIKANIYAKHEDI, A remote tribal hamlet of 205 families in Dhar district has attained a feat that could put urbane Indore to shame. Unlike Indore City where a large chunk of its population defecates in the open, Bhikaniyakhedi is the first tribal village of Indore division to attain 100 per cent sanitation coverage of individual household toilets, that too within a period of two months.
No wonder, it has pitched for this year’s Nirmal Gram Puraskar, a national award given by the President to villages that have 100 per cent individual household toilets and are free from open defecation.
The tribal hamlet in Umarban janpad panchayat where 101 families live below poverty line had only three households lavatories. Its semi-literate population would defecate in the open along the small rivulet that flows by.
The villagers seldom washed hands with soap or ash after ablutions or before taking meals. Nor were they used to regular teeth brushing or trimming nails. Today, its semi literate population not only uses household toilets but also keeps them clean with hand-made brushes. Personal hygiene is now part of their daily chore.
On his visit to the village a few months back, Umarban janpad panchayat CEO Rajendra Sharma told villagers about the President’s award at gram sabha. Moved by the concept, village sarpanch Gopal Singh Kannoje took up the challenge to generate awareness and motivate his people.
But the journey towards total sanitation wasn’t easy. People lacked the will to quit old habits. Kannoje motivated youths to campaign for the cause.
The `mitra mandalis’ would go around the village and encourage families to construct toilets with Government incentive. Gradually, households began building toilet under guidance of Public Health Engineering Department. They also dug a soak pit near their house and laid stone tiles on kutcha roads. The chocked drains were cleaned.
The village sarpanch then appointed two youths dressed in police uniform to keep vigil on families moving out of the house for ablutions. The `cops’ were paid Rs 100 a day from village panchayat fund for the job. The defaulters were fined and results were there to be seen. By November 30, villagers stopped defecating in open.
“Besides, the village has a garbage disposal system in place. Villagers dump garbage in the pit outside to produce manure,” Deputy Divisional R K Khare who visited Bhikaniyakhedi recently told Hindustan Times.