Reward and roses solve two pressing problems

With chlldren’s help, Shivappa Bidanal (first man from the right) ensured that Anchatgeri has become a plastic-free village

Even as local bodies across Karnataka celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, two gram panchayats — one in Hubballi taluk and one in Dharwad taluk — paid tribute to him by finding local solutions to their problems of plastic waste and open defecation.

Students of change

The Anchatgeri gram panchayat (in Dharwad) is probably one of the first few villages in Karnataka to have waged a battle against the use of single-use plastic. The village was plagued by plastic cups, carry bags and bottles, thereby corrupting the community’s health. 

A decade ago, Anchatgeri accounted only for two people suffering from cancer. However, over the next few years, the number shot up to eight, raising concern among its residents.

As others were struggling to locate the factors that might have caused the disease, Basavaraj Shivappa Bidanal, the gram panchayat president, was quick to see that the use of plastic could be one. 

Bidanal recalled, “The moment I realised this, I vowed to convert Anchatgeri into a plastic-free village.” It was a lone battle at first as none accepted the idea of giving up plastic and many laughed at the idea of living a plastic-free life. 

“My concern for a plastic-free Anchatgeri did not have a desirable impact.  However, I was in no mood to accept the defeat. I thought I could realise my dream with the help of school children,” he admits.

Bidanal then announced an honorarium of Rs 2 to every student who would pick plastic bottles, cups and bags, and dump them at the allotted space within the panchayat premises. The move worked wonders for him and the village.“Children not only picked plastic waste fallen on roads, but they also collected plastic waste from their houses,” he adds.

Bidanal distributed the honorarium. Within days, this became a practice among the village children. 

Now, the number of plastic bottles and bags collected at one place has crossed 10,000.

The gram panchayat members have found a solution to dispose of the plastic waste locally.

They have commissioned a Rs 35-lakh project to construct a structure to store plastic waste, rubber and paper waste. Its construction has begun. The gram panchayat is also implementing a project to generate compost manure. It has distributed two buckets to collect dry and wet waste at doorsteps.

“There is a plan to generate revenue by collecting the waste,” Bidanal says.

As Bidanal’s battle against plastic has brought about positive changes, the panchayat members have implemented a slew of measures for better administration.

The panchayat has launched a WhatsApp number for its residents so they can post the problems of their locality. CCTV cameras have come up at the panchayat and the anganwadi centre.

Flower power

Karibasappa Gudisalamani, the contractual employee at the Hebballi gram panchayat in Dharwad taluk, always wanted to go beyond the call of duty and serve his village.

Gudisalamani, who discontinued education after Class VII, was attracted by Swachh Bharat Mission and the government’s initiative that granted funds for the construction of toilets.

Till about two years ago, of the 2,761 families at Hebballi, a majority of them did not have toilets.

“Residents relieving themselves in the open was a common sight,” Gudisalamani recalls.

Gudisalamani, who also drives a tractor to carry garbage, tried to persuade the villagers against relieving themselves in the open. 

“I explained the health hazards associated with open defecation. I informed them about the government funds, too,” he says.

However, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

“So I decided to adopt another way. Whenever I spotted somebody carrying water in a container for open defecation, I stopped them and offered them a rose. Then I explained how easy it is to get funds for the construction of toilets. I stressed that toilets at homes ensured the village’s cleanliness,” he adds.

The situation slowly changed for the better.

Even the gram panchayat president and members joined Gudisalamani in creating awareness.

The efforts did not go waste as Hebballi became an open defecation-free village in 2017.

(Translated by Jagadish Angadi)

    DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
    GET IT
    Comments (+)