village headman, Pradhan Rakesh Kumar Yadav turned Akka Delari into a model total sanitation village. New school toilets in the background.
By Kulsum Mustafa
Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh),22 March 2006: Little Shabana’s eyes sparkle with joy every time she talks of the new flush latrine constructed just last month inside her little hutment. She will now no longer have to undertake those arduous journeys at unearthly hours to answer nature’s call.
Shabana’s village Akka Delari, in Munda Pandey block of Moradabad district in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the 40 villages from Uttar Pradesh to be nominated for the Nirmal Gram award presented annually by the President of India for total rural sanitation which includes zero open defecation. This year the award will be presented on March 23 at a glittering ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The young and dynamic village headman, Pradhan Rakesh Kumar Yadav turned Akka Delari into a model total sanitation village.
What makes this sleepy village, just 14 km from the hustle and bustle of the city, stand out among other villages identified for this award is the story of will and personal initiative kneaded into the project by the young and dynamic village headman, Pradhan Rakesh Kumar Yadav, who took it up as a crusade and through sheer determination garnered support and resources and helped turn Akka Delari - comprising a cluster of 800 houses and hutments with a population of 5000 - into a model total sanitation village.
Armed with the technical information collected from the district and block level officers and UNICEF, which works closely with the state government in the total sanitation campaign, Yadav formed a peer group. They took out rallies, held meetings, visited families, schools, explaining the ill-effects of open defecation.
“Much to my delight they all shared my enthusiasm. As for me, it was incentive enough that none other then the country’s President himself would be shaking my hand and honouring my village,’’ is how Yadav defines the passion that consumed him for the past several months.
“Certainly it was not easy convincing all the 560 families Above Poverty Line (APL) to build dry toilets. But it was even more difficult to get the 240 Below Poverty Line (BPL) families to contribute their share of Rs 400 to the combined Rs 1500, given by the state and central kitty that add up to Rs 1900 – which is the cost of setting up one wet latrine unit,” explained Yadav.
Sanitation on wheels in Akka Delari
Just when the community participation had been garnered, a major set back came their way. The work was not likely to take off because the government accounts were frozen due to elections and grant money for funding could not be released.
Though disappointing, this news did not dampen Yadav’s spirit for long. He was determined not to let anything come in the way of his dream and retard the pace of work. On the assurance of the district officers that he would get the money as soon as the accounts re-open, Yadav decided to use his own contacts and the family’s goodwill earned over generations to borrow money – a substantial sum – to keep the construction of the toilets going. Today, every single household of the village has a toilet.
Ending open defecation is not a scheme but a total behavioural change.
According to Sardar Ali Khan, Deputy Director Panchayat Raj, Moradabad division, and Mahendra Singh, District Panchayat Raj Officer, ending open defecation is not a scheme but a total behavioural change.
“Once the villagers learn the basic principles of hygiene and realize the scheme will give respect and security to their women and act as a symbol of social status they will fall in line,” explains Khan, adding that only demand driven government programmes succeeded. Singh confirms that the movement against open defecation is gathering momentum in Uttar Pradesh. This is indeed heartening news for a state where the access to sanitation has been pegged at a mere 37% so far.
Akka Delari is a model village today. It boasts of four government primary schools, an anganwadi (pre-school centre), two colleges for boys and one for girls. But it still lacks a hospital. While Yadav plans to use up the Rs 2 lakh award money he will be receiving from the President in improving the drainage system of his flood-prone village, he has certainly not turned a blind eye to the need of a hospital.