RAIPUR: The spirit of the late Kunwar Bai Yadav, acknowledged as a conscience keeper on rural sanitation, was eulogised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 8, International Women’s Day. The PM tweeted: “Hailing from Chhattisgarh, she sold her goats in order to build toilets. Her contribution towards a Swachh Bharat can never be forgotten. I am deeply inspired by her noble gesture.”
Kunwar Bai, a Swachh Bharat mascot, sold eight goats to meet the cost of building a toilet at home. She championed the cause of sanitation and inspired Kotabarri in Dhamtari district, some 95 km south of Raipur, to become an open defecation-free village.
#SheInspiresMe- Kunwar Bai, who died earlier this year at the age of 106. Hailing from Chhattisgarh, she sold her goats in order to build toilets. Her contribution towards a Swachh Bharat can never be forgotten. I am deeply inspired by her noble gesture. pic.twitter.com/eANQz01ZYE
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 8, 2018
During the launch of ‘Rurban Mission’ at Rajnandgaon in February 2016, PM Modi had touched Kunwar Bai’s feet and called her an inspiration. “The country is changing. A woman at a remote village endeavours to carry out the dream of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,” the Prime Minister had said than at a public rally.
An appeal by then collector Bheem Singh in a village gathering in June 2015 to make their hamlet free of open defecation was the stimulus for Kunwar Bai, who passed away last month at the ripe old age of 106. While many villagers appeared indecisive, she pledged before the collector to construct a toilet.
Her daughter Sushila Devi said that she made up her mind to build a toilet at home owing to the awareness she had gained about hygiene and cleanliness in the village meeting. “Besides, she often recollected the shameful experience and the inconvenience of going out to the field to relieve herself. Once decided, she remained firm”, Sushila Devi told The Sunday Standard.
Kunwar Bai did not wait for the government’s support of Rs 12,000 that every rural household gets for building a toilet. Within ten days of the village meeting, Kunwar Bai and her family began using their new toilet. She did not stop at that, and reached out to every household in her village, convincing them about following good sanitation practices at home.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who in 2016 gave Kunwar Bai 10 goats to compensate for the animals she had sold, dedicated the International Women’s Day-2018 logo to the memory of Kunwar Bai and her contribution to the Swachh Bharat Mission, as ‘Parivartan Ki Prerna’ (Inspiration for Change). “Her life was a living example of the proverb: ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’,” the CM tweeted. He announced a special award of H1.5 lakh in her name, to be given annually to women or self-help groups for outstanding work in the field of women’s empowerment.