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  Social Responsibility

Published on: Feb. 13, 2020, 11:45 p.m.
Making it safe and sustainable
  • Construction of new toilets. Source: DCM Shriram

By Business India Editorial

Raj Dulari is the officiating principal at the government senior secondary school in Gandifali village. The total strength of the school is 377 students, of which more than half are girls. Dulari remembers how the toilets in the school were in a pathetic shape till DCM Shriram stepped into the picture. Through its CSR programme ‘Shriram Swachhagrah’ the company constructed brand-new toilet blocks with separate facilities for boys and girls. “The airy, well-ventilated and nicely constructed toilets do not just serve the purpose of improving sanitation; rather, they have elevated the look of the entire school,” says Dulari.

When Kailashben Patel, an Asha worker got married and came to Fulwadi village in Bharuch district, she faced a tough challenge. Kailashben, who had always had a toilet in her house, discovered that few people in Fulwadi enjoyed the same luxury. “Fulwadi is surrounded by industrial area and houses in all directions. It was really inconvenient to defecate in the open in the absence of a toilet at home and a matter of shame for me.”

Patel was the first one to come forward and support DCM Shriram’s CSR team when they started a sanitation drive in 2015-16 and offered to build individual toilets for each household in the village. The first toilet was built at her house and she went around the village motivating other women, clearing their misconceptions and encouraging them to get toilets constructed in their homes.

Creating awareness

To improve sanitation and hygiene practices across Kota district in Rajasthan, Hardoi & Lakhimpur districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bharuch district of Gujarat, DCM Shriram has launched a multi-pronged project Shriram Swachhagraha, tailor-made for each location. In Kota district, the company provided sanitation facilities for school-going children in 1,072 government schools. An MoU to this effect has been signed by the foundation run by the company and the district administration of Kota. The scope of the project included construction of new toilets, renovation of existing ones, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure developed and creating awareness around cleanliness and hygiene through behaviour change programmes.

In Bharuch district, Shriram Alkali & Chemicals is attempting to create ‘open defecation free’ villages. In the first phase, Fulwadi village in Jhagadia Taluka was selected and toilets were constructed in each household. These toilet blocks have a water tank and a basin, which reinforces the importance of washing one’s hands after defecation. Over the past three years, 267 individual household toilets have been constructed in the village and extensive work has been done to sensitise people on their upkeep along with bringing about behaviour change.

In Hardoi & Lakhimpur districts children were found most vulnerable to communicable diseases caused due to open defecation. Hence, DSCL Sugar decided to work with government schools to improve basic toilet facilities and inculcate behaviour change around hand wash and open defecation. Operation and maintenance of school toilets is a focus area for the programme. This requires regular sensitisation and training of school authorities, school management committee, parents and gram panchayats.

The major challenge faced was bringing about a behavioural change in the rural communities about sanitation practices. Just building the toilets was not enough; rather an attempt had to be made to bring about a shift in the thought process of the people by creating awareness around cleanliness and hygiene through consistent engagement.

Apart from targeting more villages in the area and making them open defecation free, the company wants to promote innovative ‘next-generation’ toilets, which should be able to deliver safe and sustainable sanitation, deal with human waste innovatively without piped water and sewers and transform it into useful resources thus fixing one of the country’s toughest problems.

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