(Maharashtra): Satara district, famous for its lush
green hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, now looks
cleaner and, importantly, smells fresher, thanks to healthier
The initiative by the local district administration over the past
three-four years, covering a population of nearly 2.5 million
spread out in 1,496 big and small villages, has resulted in nearly
100 percent success among the villagers, a high-ranking official
Attending to nature's calls in the open was once a common
occurrence in the villages which lacked toilets, both at home and
in public places, the deputy chief executive officer of the
district, Tukaram R. Garale, told IANS Monday.
"Stopping them was a major challenge as they have been used to it
for centuries. We organised rath yatras, awareness campaigns,
student drives, Gandhigiri and even punitive measures before the
people finally accepted it," Garale said.
A few years ago, the district authorities decided to tackle the
menace of people defecating in the open under a state government
scheme - Nirmal Gram Yojana.
"Under this scheme, we started constructing private and public
toilet blocks in all the villages, except the areas falling under
the eight municipal councils with a population of around half
million," Garale said.
Till date, the district administration has constructed 450,000
single-seater private toilets costing Rs.7,000 each and another
2,000 multi-seater public toilets costing around Rs.100,000 each,
Though nearly 75 percent of the population accepted the changes in
their morning habits, around 20 percent still refused to use the
toilets and sauntered in the open every morning.
Initially, the district authorities tried to speak and convince
them to use the toilets which were clean, had running water, and
hygienic methods of disposing waste, but they did not succeed.
"We then adopted Gandhian methods of embarrassing them - the
village heads would wait for them with flowers, coconuts, garlands
as they came out of the bushes with lota (an empty can of water).
This seemed to work and many did not return for similar honours,"
There was still a stubborn five percent which did not yield even
to Gandhigiri - so the district authorities decided to show them
"The local panchayats booked them under Sections 117 and 115 of
the Bombay Police Act for public nuisance and they were dragged to
the police station or the courts as required," he said.
This ultimately brought the desired results - the unrelenting
villagers collectively coughed up a fine of Rs.800,000 for
defecating in public last year!
Though the maximum stipulated fine is Rs.1,200 per offence, the
courts slapped anything ranging above Rs.400 - quite unaffordable
for the poor villagers.
"Now, you can go around any village in the entire district and you
will not find a single person, including children, defecating in
the open," Garale smiled.
While the villagers gave up their old habits of defecating in the
open, now the district administration has embarked on another mega
scheme - afforestation drive under the eco-friendly scheme of the
In the past one year or so, the Satara district administration has
planted three million trees in the villages and other open spaces,
which will have great positive ramifications in the near future,
Satara, around 280 km south of Mumbai, is mostly a hilly district
with a salubrious climate round the year.
Besides Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, it is also famous the Kaas
Plateau, where millions of flowers bloom during monsoon each year
and is now in the reckoning for a Unesco World Heritage listing.