The people in the nine tribal colonies in the forested Kuttampuzha Range in Kerala’s Ernakulam district had never even seen a toilet until last year. They lead remote lives with no facilities as there is difficulty in navigation also. These tribes are in no contact with urban lifestyle and amenities. But this area is now open defecation free and this is all because of PG Sudha, a beat forest officer. She built 497 toilets for these tribal colonies.
PG Sudha has been working with the state forest department for nearly two years. She explains the lack of toilets in these areas as the people were habitual of going in the open. Also, even if they wanted a toilet, the construction of it would have been very difficult because of the area’s terrain. The construction materials transportation was a difficult task.
Under Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan when the orders came to build toilets, no contractor was ready to take the job. This is when PG Sudha stepped in between and convinced a contractor to take the contract. She tells that the biggest task was not construction but the transportation of materials. There are no proper roads leading to the colonies. Moreover, in some of the tribal areas, one has to walk around 15 to 20 km to reach there.
Even though the task of building 497 toilets was so difficult, still it got completed in a record 3 months starting in August 2016 and ending by October. They used to transport materials by different ways like carting it or through rafting. They faced many problems in the budget as well but the local authorities were supportive and sanctioned the money.
After the construction was complete, a 3-day awareness session was held for the tribal people to teach them to use toilets and keep them clean. Also, they had to be made to understand to stop defecating in the open. Their efforts paid off as these colonies are now open defecation free.
PG Sudha received the award for her contribution towards this cause by the CM Pinarayi Vijayan on November 1, 2016. This was on the occasion when Kerala became the third state in India to become open defecation free. She has also received the “Best Forest Official” title by the Kerala Government earlier. Surely, women nowadays are turning odds by doing the impossible. Just like this defence officer who carried her 5-day-old daughter to her husband’s funeral in full uniform.