Books, clothes, food, money; are usually are donated. Ever thought of donating a toilet?
Virendra Mittal, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Jorhat, Assam, has initiated a unique concept called Daan Toilet, wherein toilets can be donated to those households that still follow open defecation.
We, at The Better India, spoke to DC Virendra to understand this initiative better.
“Gone are the days of Public-Private Partnerships, now we must start relying on Government-Public Partnerships,” says Virendra Mittal.
Virendra Mittal, a 2007 batch IAS officer, hails from Jaipur, Rajasthan. He has been posted in Jorhat since July 2016. When asked why he chose to be a part of the services, he said, “The motivation was to serve society. Contrary to popular belief, the role and responsibility that one is entrusted with require tremendous hard work. Many youngsters believe that affixing the three letters to your name is what it means. However, all that authority goes hand-in-hand with responsibility.”
Launched on October 2, 2016, the Swachh Bharat Mission is India’s first mass movement for a clean nation. The endeavour is to make the country open defecation free by October 2, 2019, as a fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
Virendra Mittal took upon himself the onus of ensuring that every family in his district (who were excluded from the 2012 Baseline Survey of the Swachh Bharat Mission) had access to a toilet and understood the importance of ‘cleanliness’.
“Unfortunately the survey in my district was conducted in 2012-2013, and that meant that these families did not fall under the beneficiary list. My initiative was to ensure that every household gets its own latrines.”
Emphasising the importance of building toilets in every home, the Daan Toilet initiative has managed to donate more than 250 toilets, by raising close to Rs 32 lakh.
While the initial phase – convincing people – was difficult, once they understood the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene, the process became simpler.
Virendra Mittal says, “Whenever I met people who needed convincing I told them about the connection between Devalaya and Shauchalaya. The two words are similar in more ways than one can imagine. If a Devalaya ensures purity of soul, a Shauchalaya ensures purity of the body. And both of them are required for a person to lead a meaningful life. So donating a toilet to a person in need, to a person who cannot afford this basic necessity, is one of the greatest offerings that can be given.”
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One of the beneficiaries of this scheme, Janmoni Bora has this to say, “Earlier it was difficult. We had to go far and bring water from far, which was all the more difficult at night. We used to go to the bamboo forest behind our house. Now that we have this, it has become convenient for the children and me. If someone can think so much about the health and future of my children by donating from their hard earned money, we can start changing our ways.”
While various corporates were approached, average citizens gave most of the support. They not only took ownership of their ‘donations’ but also ensured more work was done towards the goal.
Virendra Mittal began by donating a toilet himself for a widow of his district. Soon this became a norm, and many of the officers from the district not only donated toilets but also started urging their immediate family members to do so.
“We now get donations on birthdays and other special occasions that people celebrate,” said Virendra Mittal. The aim is to ensure that 1000 toilets are donated by June 2018.
Aamir Hazarika, the citizen who brought this wonderful initiative to our notice, says, “Most IAS officers come and go, but none of them stands apart like Virendra Mittal. He is extremely people friendly and has won the hearts of all by taking that extra step.”
The district administration of Jorhat welcomes donations from our readers as well. If you would like to understand some more about this initiative or make a donation, you could reach out to the Swachh Jorhat Abhiyan at 7005205142.