Senior IAS officer leads by example, cleans toilet pit in Telangana village
Senior IAS officer Parameswaran Iyer knows how to lead from the front.india Updated: Feb 27, 2017 13:45 IST
Senior IAS officer Parameswaran Iyer knows how to lead from the front.
When the secretary to the Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation got inside a twin toilet pit in a Telangana village and removed faecal matter with his hands, the 40-odd bureaucrats accompanying him as well as the villagers watched him in awe.
The action of Iyer, who heads the Swachh Bharat Mission, also caught the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi lauded him while addressing the nation during his “Mann ki Baat” radio programme on Sunday. He explained in detail how such efforts would create a revolution in the society.
“This toilet pit emptying exercise undertaken by the Drinking Water & Sanitation Ministry is remarkable!” Modi tweeted as well.
Iyer was on a visit to Gangadevipalli in Warangal district on February 18 along with a delegation of 40 bureaucrats, including 23 principal secretaries associated with the rural development departments in various states, besides representatives of the UNICEF.
The team was there to study the concept of twin-pit toilet technology that converts human excreta into manure within a short period of time and also helps in eliminating the practice of open defecation.
The officers, on a training programme at the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) in Hyderabad, saw the toilets in 7 houses and interacted with the residents to understand how the technology works.
“It’s perfectly safe and clean to empty a twin pit toilet. The @swachhbharat team joins Gangadevipally village today,” Iyer tweeted after visiting the village.
Each toilet consists of two holes that are dug up and cemented and as one gradually fills up with faecal matter, the villagers start using the second pit. The first pit is closed and the faecal matter in it gets decomposed, dries up and turns into manure. After six months, the first pit is emptied and can be used again by the time the second pit is full.
“While explaining this technology, Iyer suddenly wanted to know how the first pit is emptied. He removed the lid of the pit, got into it and started lifting the dried up faecal matter, which had turned into a manure, using a shovel,” Warangal (rural) joint collector Prashant Jeevan Patil told Hindustan Times.
Patil said Iyer did not even wear gloves on his hands.
“It was a surprise to everybody and after some time, all of us started participating in the cleaning up of the toilet. He led all of us by example in showing that scavenging is not a menial job. And I, too, held the dried up faecal matter, which had turned into manure, with my hands and I was not ashamed of it,” Patil said.
The joint collector said villagers of Gangadevipalli have been using this twin-pit technology for the last 16 years.
“They do the manual cleaning of pits but watching an IAS officer doing it was something unusual for them. They all appreciated it,” he said.
According to the Census 2011, there are more than 2.6 million dry latrines in the country. There are 13,14,652 toilets where human excreta is flushed in open drains, 7,94,390 dry latrines where the human excreta is cleaned manually. Seventy-three percent of these are in rural areas and 27% are in urban areas.
The Prime Minister launched the Swachh Bharat Mission by sweeping the streets of Valmiki Colony in New Delhi on October 2, 2014, to modernise sanitation by 2019, in time for the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.
His aim was to change attitudes as he took the broom to sweep up rubbish in the Delhi neighbourhood occupied by members of the Valmiki caste, whose traditionally are forced into “manual scavenging”, a euphemism for clearing other people’s faeces.