Press Trust of india

Kud girl leads hunger strike for toilets; felicitated

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Nisha Kumari

Udhampur, Mar 25:  A 14-year-old girl's hunger strike has led to the construction of over 550 toilets in a Panchayat in Udhampur district, with Union Minister Jitendra Singh describing her as "child icon" of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Nisha Kumari, a Class 10 student, had sat on a hunger strike on March 14 to press her family and authorities to construct an Individual Household Latrine (IHHL)  in her house in Kud Basti village after learning about the benefits of Open Defecation Free (ODF) area and use of toilets in a debate at her school in Kud.

Inspired by her protest, 35 more students from Higher Secondary School Kud staged protests in their houses demanding construction of toilets in the households.

"On March 13, I had watched a programme in my school on the topic of Swachh Bharat Mission. I was thrilled to hear about it but at the same time I was sad for not having a toilet in my house," Nisha said.

"The next day, I started the hunger strike for pressing my family and the government to ensure that my house has individual latrine put in place," she said, adding, "I did not take meals for over two days which resulted in a positive change when construction of a toilet began at my house."

The government granted approval for construction of an IHHL at Nisha's house under Swachh Bharat Mission and deputed the block medical officer of the rural development department to oversee the work, prompting the Class 10 student to end her fast.

Also, within a week after her hunger strike, the work on construction of 558 IHHLs began in many houses, including those of the 35 school children who protested.

Describing Nisha as a “child icon” of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Union Minister of State in PMO said he came here to thank her for setting an example in carrying forward one of the flagship programmes of the government which had become a “mass movement”.

Singh presented a memento and a bag of textbooks to Nisha in the presence of District Development Commissioner Udhampur Ravinder Kumar and other senior officers.

There are 20 Panchayats with 7,989 houses in the Kud Panchayat block. While the work on over 500 toilets has been started, the government has set December-end as deadline to ensure that Udhampur becomes open defecation free, a senior officer of the RDD said.

Mukesh Kumar, the principal of the school where Nisha studies, said, "Nisha not only brought a change at her house but she became example for other children. Over 35 children here followed her for construction of toilets at their houses."

The school has also started providing information about the Swachh Bharat Mission and IHHLs to the students at morning prayers to create more awareness, the principal added.

Meanwhile, inspired by Nisha's crusade, the Udhampur administration has began work on constructing 500 more such toilets in deprived households in the adjoining vicinity.

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