Gujarat Technological University (GTU) has channelised the energy of its students to construct 9,000 toilets in 107 villages across the state last fortnight. While 6,000 students of the National Service Scheme (NSS) wing of Bachelor of Engineering (BE) courses from 57 colleges gave voluntary labour for two days, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) spent Rs 12,000 on each toilet to provide materials and two masons to complete the task. A similar exercise will be undertaken between September 25 to October 2 to build more toilets in state’s villages.
“The students worked as labourers with the masons. They also dug out septic pits for the toilets,” said C S Singhvi, professor of Applied Mechanics at L D College of Engineering, GTU’s NSS coordinator, who supervised the process.
He said that the first year BE students were taken every year on a visit to some villages in interior areas to study their problems with regard to sanitation and other issues and then suggest solutions. “Since the Government of India has announced to make all villages ‘open defecation free’ by the end of 2019, we asked the students what they can do to motivate and help the villagers to go for toilets in their houses as announced by PM Narendra Modi,” he said. “Students first created awareness among villagers who were initially not ready for toilets within the premises of their homes. But they agreed after students told them how it can help keep health and hygiene without them incurring any cost,” said Singhvi.
“Even after the construction of toilets, some villagers were not ready to use it and converted them into stores. The students, who stayed in the villages for more than a week, again counselled them about the benefits of the loo and then they began using it,” said Singhvi. “Convincing the villagers of the benefits of the toilets and using them was in fact more difficult for students than giving free labour to construct loos,” said Singhvi.
According to state government sources, a total of 69 lakh toilets were required to be built in Gujarat to make it open defecation free and 80% of the target has already been achieved. So, only 15 to 16 lakh toilets are left to be built by 2019 end.
Commissioner of Technical Education Anis Mankad said, “We have decided to launch a similar exercise in this regard between September 25 and October 2.”