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'Walk of Shame' Triggers Toilet Consciousness

Dabena village in Chhattisgarh was one of the first to receive ready-made toilets under a state government campaign to ensure sanitation facilities in rural areas . But a majority of villagers were initially hesitant to use them.

Each of the 33 families of Dabena in Bilaspur district were provided with latrines constructed near their houses under the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) launched in November 2005 covering five districts. But most the 180-strong population preferred the old way of heading for open fields to ease themselves, reports Grassroots Features.

Fed up with the stubborn refusal of villagers to use their private latrines, Sarpanch Dinesh Kaushik decided to take drastic action. He invited officials of the district Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), the nodal body implementing the TSC, to visit Dabena and directed villagers to extend all hospitality to them.

What unfolded next is still remembered with horror by the residents of Dabena. After the cursory greetings, the sarpanch suggested that the visitors have a casual tour of the village. The excited villagers proudly displayed their tidy dwellings and the attached sparkling, but as yet unused, latrines for inspection. And then Kaushik led the guests towards the open, lush green fields.

As visitors and guests began the tough and unsavoury navigation around mounds of shit and refuse scattered all around, the magnitude of the open toilet ground stood exposed. To drive the point home, the sarpanch captured the dismayed and horrified expressions of the villagers on video film, which he screened for all after the infamous walk around the fields.

It was dubbed the "Walk of Shame" and the villagers immediately pledged to never again dirty their fields but use their in-door toilets.

"It was the first time that the villagers had toured the entire fields and it was a rude awakening for them", recollects Sameer Gaur o
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