Hamirpur is a village in Datia tehsil and 5 km from Datia city. The village has 75 families and population of 641 out of whom 44.5 are Scheduled Castes, 11.2 Scheduled Tribes and the rest Backward Classes. Before implementation of Water Aid Project began in January 2004 the village had single toilet in the home of the present secretary of Water and Sanitation Committee Rajendra Singh. But this toilet was not being used. As a result of efforts of Parhit, and activism and motivation of Youth Group and Water and Sanitation Committee today the village is free of open defecation and has become first block level clean village under Clean Village Award Scheme announced by the Madhya Pradesh Government. How starting from a lone unused toilet structure toilets were constructed in each home of the village? How Hamirpur won block level Clean Village Award? What is the next plan of action of the village? An interesting story of four years of steadfastness of patience, understanding, struggle, persistence and dedication despite four years of drought and famine...!!!
Cleanliness is more important than independence! Taking inspiration from this statement of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi, Parhit started Integrated Water Sanitation and Cleanliness Project in January 2004 with support from Water Aid India.
The implementation of the project began with formation, orientation and capacity building of community based organisations in the village. These CBOs included Youth Groups, Self Help Groups and Village Water and Sanitation Committee. Incidentally this committee was constituted in the year 2003 as Swajaldhara Samiti for Tap Water Scheme and the committee had collected contribution of Rs 40,000.
After these initial activities attempts started to get old abandoned haveli of Raja Hamir Singh, on whose name the village was decades ago named Hamirpur, rid of human faeces. At that time the haveli was the lone safe place for children, women and old to defecate as progenies of the Raja did not reside here. On the other hand young people used to go to toilet along a nullah, crossing which was almost impossible because of foul odour.
Gradually construction of toilets in homes began. But despite all out efforts only 13 toilets could be constructed in the first year of the project.
Concerned over the state of affairs, a review meeting of Village Water and Sanitation Committee, Panchayat members and Youth Groups was held in the presence of the Chief Executive of the organisation. The meeting concluded that poor availability of water was acting as barrier in construction of toilets. The meeting suggested that Water Aid India install one hand pump in the village. But the people were not ready to contribute money again because of delay in Tap Water Scheme. Later Rs 5,000 were collected as community contribution following continued efforts of a villager Ashok Ahirwar, organisation worker Deepak Bijothia and Chairperson of Village Water and Sanitation Committee Bhagwan Das Pal and a new hand pump was installed.
It may be mentioned that about 500 to 700 m away from the village habitation there were three hand pumps – two giving full water and one giving water occasionally. These hand pumps used to be overcrowded. The crowd decreased somewhat with the coming up of a hand pump and the community got some relief.
But this was hardly sufficient. A big letdown was the first six month period of the year 2005-06 in which just three household toilets were constructed instead of targeted 75 toilets. The frustration was so much that a big meeting was called at the village temple. The four hour meeting that ended at 11 in the night concluded that unless the villagers were assured that Tap Water Scheme would be implemented in the village, no progress in the campaign from freedom from open defecation was possible. Several more important decisions were taken in which the main was to associate new energetic members by replacing inactive members of Village Water and Sanitation Committee.
Then process of earning faith of women and villagers started. Several contacts with the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) revealed that the earlier plan worth Rs 4 lakh formulated under Swajaldhara was completed and sent to the Government, but could not be passed as there were mistakes in calculations. It was also revealed that Tap Water Scheme was not going to be sanctioned in the near future.
The situation was discussed with the Project Officer of Water Aid India, Mr Johnson, and he agreed to grant funds in the year 2007-08. This decision of Water Aid India was a morale booster for Village Water and Sanitation Committee. The committee members started giving message to each family that Tap Water Scheme would be taken up only when all homes got toilets constructed. The message had its effect and toilet construction began on a brisk pace. The organisation gave grant of Rs 500 to all those opting for toilet construction. For the people living below poverty line, continued advocacy was done so they got Rs 1,200 which is available for such families under Total Sanitation Campaign. The advocacy included exercising Right to Information, awareness on cleanliness and water conservation and holding of district level rally. The rally, which was attended by almost 250 women and men, ended after handing over a memorandum to the District Magistrate. But out of 17 families just six families got Rs 7,200 at the rate of Rs 1,200 per family.
On the other hand to maintain credibility among the community, to ensure success of forthcoming Tap Water Scheme, and to increase ground water table, Village Water and Sanitation Committee and Parhit chalked out a plan to undertake roof water harvesting on government buildings, community well deepening and water recharging. As a part of this, four structures were constructed on all government buildings – school, panchayat bhawan and anganwadi centre.
While construction of household toilets was going on full swing, the Village Water and Sanitation Committee got pumping capacity of ‘to be installed’ tube well checked from PHED. It was found that there was sufficient water for the Tap Water Scheme.
An interesting story in these all out efforts was deepening of the single pond of the village. Members of the Village Water and Sanitation Committee saw that a few tractors were engaged in carrying soil for use in construction of houses in Datia city. It was decided why not to ask the tractor operators to take soil from the pond. The efforts bore fruit and they started digging soil from the pond, beginning the work of pond deepening. A few members of the Village Water and Sanitation Committee were given responsibility to ensure that soil was dug in such a way that pond was deepened. Today this pond is full of water and presents a beautiful sight; it quenches thirst of cattle and gives life to all the three hand pumps in the school campus. Seeing the participation of people, PHED got a boulder check dam constructed on the nullah, which emanates from the pond.
By September 2006, construction of household toilets was almost complete. One day two district level officials, Umesh Singh and DM Shastri, visited the village and after seeing the progress of the work directed the District Coordinator of Total Sanitation Campaign Shalabh Katare for nominating the village for block level Clean Village Award. The application had to be submitted through the Gram Panchayat.
Here was a catch because entire family of the then woman sarpanch was in jail in a case and sarpanch was not ready to put her signature on the application without ‘permission’ of her husband. Since the committee did not want to lose this opportunity, they met the sarpanch’s husband in jail, got permission for her, took signature of the sarpanch and managed to send the application.
But the committee’s struggle did not end here. The award amount had to go to the account of the panchayat, which was totally defunct. The villagers feared if the award amount went to panchayat account the village was not going to benefit at all. Therefore, the organisation emphatically advocated in District Water and Sanitation meetings held on November 22, 2006 and December 27, 2006, that the award was given to the Village Water and Sanitation Committee, Hamirpur. In the first meeting there was no agreement on this issue in the absence of guidelines, but in the second Datia Collector Ashok Shivhare agreed.
Struggling against all these problems, hurdles and non-cooperation, the much awaited day came. On the occasion of Republic Day celebrations in 2007 at Datia Stadium when name of Hamirpur was announced for block level Clean Village Award, the stadium reverberated with claps. The Minister In-charge Narottam Mishra presented prize certificate and cheque of Rs 50,000 to the Village Water and Sanitation Committee Chairperson Bhagwan Das Pal. According to Pal, it was an enthralling moment, which was unimaginable one year ago.
Even after getting the prize, the struggle of the villagers and Village Water and Sanitation Committee has not ended. It was just a stopover and the responsibility has just increased. Now the committee intends to present its case for the district level Clean Village Award and the villagers are ready. According to the work plan sent to the Zilla Panchayat construction of 30 nadep structures and one clean toilet at anganwadi centre has been completed so cleanliness of the villages can be maintained.
Next in the line is to ensure increase in ground water table for making more potable water available in the village. This has to be completed by September 2007 and for this Water Aid India has made provision of Rs 1,50,000 in the budget 2007-08. A villager Mannu Lal has consistently approached the local legislator Ghanshyam Singh and got Rs 1,00,000 sanctioned.
Taking a lesson from the four year drought, the committee has decided that with the support of Parhit, roof water harvesting structures will be constructed in all the homes having pucca roof.
Seeing the efforts of the committee, organisation and gram panchayat members, leading to increase in ground water table, PHED has sanctioned two boulder check dam and one stop dam on the nullah so as to ensure that water is always available in the pond. Work on these is about to begin.
Now rural society does not want to neglect water. The awareness level has reached to such level that the community has started raising the voice about water conservation works under the works to be done under employment guarantee scheme. The gram panchayat member Phool Singh feels water table in hand pumps has gone up because of roof water harvesting structure built in local school. He feels that after all the roof water harvesting structures are installed all hand pumps in the village will be successful. And then the rural women will not have to make journey of nearly 2,000 km for fetching water. Also sight of young boys and girls carrying water containers on bicycles will be thing of past.