Meet Bonti Saikia from Assam, who has been honoured by PM Modi recently at the #ChaloChamparan event for her dedicated swachh efforts to make her village in Assam open defecation free to fight Diarrhoeal deaths.
In India, Diarrhoea kills 328 people every day and 13 every hour. For 47-year-old Bonti Saikia from Jorhat district in Assam this was not just another statistics to shake your head at sorry state of affairs and move on. For Bonti this was a cause worth fighting for. Her fight against Diarrhoea started few years ago from her home-town in Assam, when she learnt that regular practice of open defecation and lack of good hygiene in the village is the reason behind this deadly disease. Today, because of her persistent efforts, her village has been successful in eradicating open defecation and diarrhoeal deaths have come down significantly. At recently held concluding ceremony of #ChaloChamparan in Bihar, Bonti was also honoured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for her dedicated Swachh efforts.
Speaking to NDTV about her swachh crusade, Bonti said,
Year-after-year, I used to see my village people suffering and dying because of Diarrhoea. I was unaware about the cause of this disease. After attending a session about health that was conducted in my village, I got to know that the reason behind this deadly disease is the lack of safe sanitation and hygiene, says Mrs Bonti.
And that was the day when Bonti decided to act upon the problem before it is too late. She adds,
I already had a toilet at home, that’s why I knew the benefits of using one. I knew how to use a toilet, how to keep it clean and the basic steps of good hygiene after using a toilet. I thought, I will use my knowledge and educate everyone in the village, so that they can also live a healthy lifestyle, just like me.
With education as her tool, Bonti started going door-to-door and started teaching people who didn’t have a toilet at home on why it is important to get one and the basic rules to follow for a healthy life.
“I taught my villagers how to wash hands with soap, how to use a toilet at home, how to keep it clean and other rules to a healthy lifestyle, ”added Bonti.
Not just houses, Bonti soon started going to her village schools and gram panchayats event and started holding workshops. She adds,
“It was not easy, not everyone was ready to listen to me. But, I didn’t lose hope. If they didn’t hear me out for the first time, I went to them again, till the time they actually acted upon the thing I was saying.”
Apart from education, Bonti also made an arrangement through which families can get materials for constructing a toilet free of cost for the time-being. Explaining this she said,
“I convinced the owners of the shopkeepers to provide the materials to the families who can’t afford them, for free for that particular time. The families can then pay them back after they get the subsidised amount from the government for building a toilet. Thankfully they agreed and this arrangement worked out.”
Last year, on October 2, Bonti’s village was declared open defecation free. She was instrumental is getting more than 2,000 toilets built in the village.
The swachh warrior signs off by saying,
What I did was not something out of the box, just sheer dedication and the achievement is huge. I am glad that I am part of India’s biggest cleanliness initiative. I want to urge each one of you to just do something about fulfilling the dream of Clean India. One simple step by all of us can together help us achieve the target.