BHUBANESWAR: Walls of toilets in the non-descript Similihata village under Deogarh district have turned into canvasses with messages of Swachh Bharat written on them. Colourful pathways with flowers plants on both sides lead to these toilet blocks. Locals consider them as pride of their village, literally.
At Similihata under Lulang gram panchayat of Reamal block, villagers were on a mission to end open defecation through their initiative 'My Toilet My Pride' under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Home to 266 people of 46 households, primarily Scheduled Tribe, the village witnessed the initiative a year back.
Today, the villagers take pride in the fact that Similihata is the first village in the district to have become open defecation free and has emerged as the model village to have adopted 'My Toilet My Pride', which is being emulated by 60 more villages under Reamal, Barkote and Tileibani blocks.
Helping them in the initiative were the District Water & Sanitation Mission (DWSM) and the UNICEF. The village also has dustbins installed everywhere so that no solid waste is thrown outside the houses.
It was in 2008-09 when villagers first started building toilets following an outbreak of diarrhoea that affected 30 families. Then, eight families built toilets in their houses but they were not used by all members of the families.
In November last year, village head Fakir Pradhan took up the responsibility and with the help of DWSM trained masons, got Individual Household Latrines (IHHLs) constructed in each of the households.
Every household was sanctioned `12,000 under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for the purpose.
"Due to lack of awareness, people did not take interest in using these toilets and continued open defecation. Then we decided to form a Swachhata Committee with 11 members of the village," said Pradhan, who is also the president of the committee. The committee decided to impose a fine of `50 on every person who resorted to open defecation.
The fine, though, was never collected as villagers who are mostly into agriculture and forest product collection, could not afford to pay the amount and hence, started using toilets.
To increase people's participation in the Abhiyan, DWSM officials suggested committee members to involve villagers in painting the theme of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on the toilet walls and named the initiative 'My Toilet My Pride'.
"It actually started as a competition among households to prepare the most colourful toilet block. Since synthetic paints are not affordable, villagers, mostly women, prepared colours made of ash, turmeric, dried flowers, rice powder and liquid blue dye," Pardhan said.
"The expenditure ranged from `150 to `250 per IHHL and the artworks created on toilet walls included 'rangolis', Soura paintings, Sanskrit slokas and messages on ills of open defecation. Toilets are a matter of pride for villagers today as people come to their houses not to visit them but see how colourful their toilets are", said secretary of the Swachhata Committee, Bijay Kumar Pradhan with a smile.