On 2nd October this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared India open defecation free (ODF), five years after he gave the call to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. For a country where going out to defecate was a normal thing, implementing this mission was not easy. It took a never like effort from the government machinery and normal citizens of the country. Behind this feat of being an ODF country, there are millions of unsung heroes who have put in extraordinary efforts in this mission. One such unsung hero is Ram Lalit from UP's Mirzapur district.
Ram Lalit belongs to Premapur village in Mirzapur, a 36 KM drive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi Parliamentary constituency Varanasi. Premapur looks like any other ordinary village in UP, except this Village has an extraordinary feat. It was one of the first villages in Uttar Pradesh to be declared open defecation free. Premapur is part of the Sikhad block which was the first block in UP to be declared ODF.
Fawda Man of Mirzapur
Ram Lalit, 50, was appointed Swachta Grahi as part of the Swach Bharat Mission and was also part of the Village's Nigrani Samiti, a volunteer group of local villagers who worked to make the village ODF.
Ram Lalit’s day began at 4 AM. Lalit started his day by patrolling around the village with his ‘Fawda’ and broom. He used his Fawda to cover the feces that was left behind by people defecating in open and cleaned the roadsides with the broom. On being asked why did he start doing this, Ram Lalit says, “flies sit on the feces and spread disease. I used to cover it to protect the village from such diseases”. Ram Lalit’s efforts were initially termed as obsession and were made fun of by many in the village but eventually, everyone paid heed to the things he said. Ram Lalit’s effort earned him the title of ‘Fawda Man of Mirzapur’ from a local Swachh Bharat Mission official. Ram Lalit feels proud of his title as he believes it earned him respect. ‘I am not very educated, I can hardly read and write but this work that I do has earned me respect from people across the region and even big officials. I got no salary to do all this, but it gave me a proud feeling. ‘Bade Bade Adhikari log Humse Hath Milate, Photo Khichwate hain.’ he added.
Clean Ganga is next
After the village was declared ODF, Ram Lalit started working on his new target, of cleaning the river Ganga which flows through Premapur village. Ram Lalit now works to clean the ghat and the areas near to the river. Ram Lalit says ‘I will one day clean the entire river embarkment in the village if the people of the villager support me.’
Ram Lalit’s mission to make his village and river clean often come in between his responsibilities as the man of the family. Ram Lalit’s wife, Usha tells us, ‘before this mission began he would work as a labourer but now he is so involved that he doesn’t get the time. The government should also appreciate his work, we have three children to look after.’
Ram Lalit says he doesn’t get any monetary help from the government but that has never mattered much to him, ‘I have no greed, I work for the respect and making my village clean but if the government will take any decision to help people like me it will be really good.’ ‘If the government takes any decision to give some monetary help to people like me who are working for cleanliness in the village it will be good but I don’t want anything special for me and even I don’t get anything I will still work for this mission.’