Setting an example: Rurka Kalan panchayat constructs toilet block for tribal settlers

Will promote better sanitation, hygiene among Gaddiwalas putting up in shanties

Setting an example: Rurka Kalan panchayat constructs toilet block for tribal settlers

In a first-of-its-kind move, toilets have been built for underprivileged population at Rurka Kalan village.

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 19

At a time when incidents of atrocities and perpetual sidelining of Dalits by village panchayats have been rampant, a village panchayat in Jalandhar is setting a rare example by undertaking a massive exercise to rehabilitate members of a tribal settlement putting up in their village for decades. In a first step in this direction, the village has constructed toilets for its settlers.

A settlement of people popularly referred to as Gaddiwalas by the villagers, who hail from Rajasthan, the tribe which has been putting up at Rurka Kalan village for the past over 50 to 70 years, has been gifted a toilet complex by the village gram panchayat.

It is probably among the first initiative by a state village gram panchayat to mainstream its colony of shanty settlers.

A community of vagabonds and nomads who have been putting up in shanties and jhuggies near the village, the sanitary complex has been built to promote better sanitation and hygiene among them. Two sets of bathrooms — one for men and the second for women — have been built. Set up near the Patwarkhana, Rurka Kalan, the complex has four bathrooms (two toilets and two bathing rooms) and two washing areas — each, for men and women.

A vibrant huge educative mural on the outer wall and a set of quotations marking the inner wall beautify the toilet complex, which is formally referred to as the Community Sanitary Complex.

While work on the toilets began in March this year, it has recently been completed and is all set for use for the settlement of nomads putting up in the village periphery.

While poor education and lack of birth and death registrations had left the community without jobs and they lived in poor conditions sans electricity or toilets, the gram panchayat decided to change that. Not only are toilets built for them but an activity based learning event will also be held to train them in the proper and sanitary use of the facilities!

Sarpanch Kulwinder Kaur and Youth Football Club founder Gurmangal Dass jointly embarked on the project in March.

Gurmangal Dass said: “They have been staying here for many years before I was born. They hail from Rajasthan and are originally a shephardic and Lohar community who trade animals and agricultural implements for a living. We noticed their living conditions were very poor, so we decided to build toilets for them. We faced much resistance from the village itself as many told us “tussi tan ehnan nu pakka karta” (you have made them permanent here). But we believe with proper training and education they can also raise their livelihoods. The eventual plan is to educate their kids and also start a housing project for them.”

Village sarpanch Kulwinder Kaur said, “I noticed the women of the community defecating in the open and we wanted to do something to restore their dignity. They lived in a deplorable condition and used the one tap in the neighbourhood for washing their clothes and other domestic chores. They came ages ago in search of livelihoods and we hope or project is eventually able to mainstream them and bring them better livelihoods.” The village has also ensured pensions and certificates for many of the settlers who were not able to procure them.

A total of over Rs 7 lakh was spent on the building of the toilet complex. Of the total amount, Rs 2.1 lakh was from the Swachh Bharat Gramin Mission - 2 and Rs 90,000 is a grant from the 15th Finance Commission. The YFC has spent over Rs 4 lakh on the project.

While Rurka Kalan has a population of abour 9,000, the Gaddiwalas settlement houses about 40 families comprising 100 to 150 memberse. The village is also trying to mainstream their children, 20 to 25 of whom have been going to school.

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