In Rajkot, College Students Ensure No Open Defecation

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), February 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

In Rajkot, College Students Ensure No Open Defecation


New Delhi, Feb. 29 -- Hetal Jadav, a 20-year-old college student from Rajkot, lives in a tenement with two attached toilets. She, however, does not mind using the mobile toilet vans parked ki lo metres away at the Lax min agar slums.

Ask her why, and she replies: "I try to set an example for slum dwellers to stop open defecation."

Hetal is not alone in doing this. About 50 young volunteers, all students of a sanitation course at the All India Institute of Local Self-Government, fan out across various parts of the city every day on an important quest - spotting people heading to the railway tracks or neighbourhood fields for answering nature's call. But before they can reach their destination, these volunteers approach them and gently attempt convincing them to use the nearest public toilet.

"We know that's usually not the right time for a chat. Some of them get angry and abuse us. At times, they even physically assault us. But, in the end, they agree," says Nipurn Siraya, another volunteer.

On many occasions, the volunteers - accompanied by supportive religious and community leaders - hold overnight meetings with slum dwellers to sell the idea of using toilets. The area's civic body, for its part, pays a stipend of ' 2,500 to the students for their trouble.

As it turns out, their work doesn't seem to be going in vain. "We started using a public toilet after these young students made us swear on our deity to do so," says Radha Rapcha, a 55-year-old slum dweller. "Till now, answering nature's call meant sitting next to the railway tracks, with friends and relatives forming a circular human chain to provide cover. …

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