CORPORATE TRAILBLAZER BHARTI FOUNDATION, LUDHIANA, PUNJAB
Ifeel so much healthier,” says Pooja Rani a year after the Bharti Foundation helped construct a toilet in her small home in Ludhiana’s Rohla village. Down the brick-lined lane in the poorest quarter of the village, Rajwant Kaur, a grandmother, is similarly ecstatic. “There is absolutely no tension now,” she says, recalling the incessant harassment poor women used to face—having to wait until it was dark enough to go out and relieve themselves in fields fringing the village. And this at the risk of being abused and often being chased away by farm owners. With 18 new toilets, Rohla is now open-defecation-free (ODF). The happy story replicates itself across 1,010 Ludhiana district villages and urban slums where Bharti Foundation has constructed about 18,000 toilets as part of the Satya Bharti Abhiyan—a rural sanitation initiative launched in 2014 taking a cue from the PM’s Swachh Bharat Mission. The project has benefitted close to 90,000 individuals.
Nitin Sharma, who manages the Abhiyan project in Ludhiana district, says much of the success is due to the efficient toilet design. A WHOapproved model, it uses minimal water, and the leach pits don’t require periodic cleaning. Left to degrade for a period of two years after it fills up, the contents can be later used as manure. The success of the Satya Bharti Abhiyan is evident across rural Ludhiana, where happy locals refer to it as the ‘Airtel toilet’. Periodic field checks and feedback from panchayats are reporting over 98 per cent use. Ludhiana is now Punjab’s first ODF district. Satya Bharti Abhiyan is being extended to rural Amritsar, where the foundation will construct over 50,000 toilets.