Undeterred by disability, he inspires villagers to build toilets
Village pradhan Seema Singh says 35-year-old Prajapati played a major role in spreading awareness to make their village open-defecation free (ODF).Updated: Sep 16, 2019 14:34 IST
Going to the fields to defecate in the open was a daily ordeal for Brijesh Prajapati, who suffers from polio in both his legs. However, undeterred by his disability, he not only built himself a toilet, but 17 years on, he has become an inspiration for many in his village located under Sultanpur gram panchayat in Sirkoni block of Jaunpur district.
Village pradhan Seema Singh says 35-year-old Prajapati played a major role in spreading awareness to make their village open-defecation free (ODF). “At least 268 toilets have been built in the village under the Swachh Bharat Mission while around 72 were made by people with their own resources. It was creditable to see how he made temporary toilets using plastic sheets for cover and even arranged a small light inside the toilet. Showing his example, we encouraged people to follow suit,” she says.
Asked what prompted him to build a toilet he says, “Going to the fields on the village outskirts was a daily struggle for me. Unable to walk the long distance in extreme summer and winter, I often had to relieve myself on the roadside. In monsoon, the ordeal got worse as I was left with no option, but to use the area behind my own house. It was then that I decided to construct a temporary toilet by making an enclosure covered with jute bags on all sides.”
At the age of 18, he made a temporary toilet by digging a pit with the help of his elderly father, placed a broken sheet of cement on it and fixed the toilet seat close to the pit. For privacy, he covered the area with bamboo sticks, used old clothes to create a makeshift washroom. But the temporary walls and missing roof provided little cover in adverse weather conditions like winter and monsoon. Mischievous locals made his life more miserable as they would throw stones, make obscene remarks and abuse him.
“Despite holding a diploma in computers but unable to get a decent job. I was depressed but I had to look after my 84-year-old father. After a few years, I lost my wife Saraswati Devi while giving birth to our only child which left me with the responsibility of our son Naitik, who is now five years old,” he adds.
Brijesh soon found work in the state polytechnic and thereafter he was determined not to let his son defecate in the open. He saved a little amount every month and went on to build himself a toilet with bricks and a cemented floor. “Using my own toilet gives me a sense of dignity. Earlier, we had no option but to defecate in the open, but now both, my father and child use this toilet,” he says.
Satyendra Singh, associated with the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) says Brijesh’s story is a shining example of grit and determination of a differently-abled person who didn’t allow his disability or poverty to come in the way of his dignity and went ahead with his commitment to cleanliness.
“He now goes out, meets people, talks to them and spreads awareness about why toilets are an integral part of a family’s health, safety and dignity,” says Satyendra Singh.
First Published: Sep 16, 2019 14:34 IST