A clean lane in a Nirmal Gram
village in Madhya Pradesh
It is not uncommon in rural India to find garbage strewn around or
people relieving themselves in the open due to the absence of
toilets. But many villages in Madhya Pradesh are a welcome change
and are known as 'Nirmal Grams', or clean villages. More than
2,000 villages have already been declared Nirmal Grams under a
centrally sponsored scheme started in 2003.
A village is given the title after all its houses have their own
toilets. Under the scheme, the panchayats are awarded cash,
depending on their population.
Apart from the visible change in hygiene standards, the focus on
cleanliness also brings in tow attendant social benefits. Women,
for example, feel much safer as they do not have to go in the open
and unsecured areas to relieve themselves.
In the Budhni development block of Sehore district, one
immediately realises that one has entered a Nirmal Gram.
The roads are clean with no sign of garbage on the roads. There
are permanent drains and villagers are careful to keep their
The village's former head Ramsevak Patel took the initiative to
turn Budhni into a Nirmal Gram in 2007 after District Collector
Raghvendra Singh expressed concern during his visit about people
defecating the open.
Patel took the cue and launched an awareness campaign encouraging
people to construct toilets in their homes. Now, all the 635 homes
in the village have their private toilets.
The local government school and Anganwadi centre too have proper
sanitation facilities. Ram Narayan, 65, symbolises the change in
"I completely understand that sanitation and hygiene ensure that
one remains healthy and we are proud to be part of this campaign,"
Patel told a visiting IANS correspondent.
"That is why not only have we stopped defecating in the open, but
all families now ensure that they keep all eatables and water
covered," he said.
In Guna district, children from 25 villages have become
torchbearers of change in an initiative supported by Unicef. They
are part of a group called 'Jagmag Sena' (The glittering army).
Hinotia village in this district is a Nirmal Gram. As one enters
the local senior secondary school here, the impact of children's
efforts is quite visible. The school is very clean, there is no
garbage lying anywhere and all students are extremely careful
about their personal hygiene.
Gregor von Medeazza, child environment specialist with the Unicef
office for Madhya Pradesh, told IANS: "Hinotia school is a
brilliant example of school-led sanitation. In such programmes,
students not only take active part in the design and operation of
school toilets, deciding on the layout of sanitary facilities, but
also become agents of change, transferring the good hygiene
practices for ending open defecation and washing hands with soap
from their school to the
Jagmag Sena uses means like games and discussions to engage
Varsha Prajapati, who heads the Jagmag Sena, said: "We have very
interesting games through which we spread simple but important
message of cleanliness.
"We emphasise the importance of washing hands and keeping oneself
clean," she added.
(Arun Anand can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)