Cool breeze, green fields, tall bamboo houses and then this pungent smell ruined the beauty of the place! The odor was there almost near every house, why?
In Dagam village of Arunachal Pradesh, houses were built at a minimum height that people can defecate from the house and every house also had a pig to clear the defecated waste. That’s how the sanitation problem was taken care naturally in this village. Almost all houses were similar, they had a separate place for defecation and people don’t have to come out of their place. The young educated sarpanch, Tapak decided to put an end to the unhealthy sanitation procedure in 2008. Tapak was chosen as a sarpanch by the village in 2007. Since then he was in dilemma on how to address the problems of the village. While doing his graduation Tapak had the opportunity of teaching many kids in his place. Inspired by his work for the kids, villagers requested Tapak to be the new Sarpanch. Straight from college to village head!
Tapak took almost a year, getting accustomed to his new responsibilities. In 2008 Tapak took a firm decision to change his village for better. He met few leaders, Deputy Commissioner Ameya Abhayankar, PHEJE RC Sharma, executive engineer Niapung Konia. Tapak identified the process of how government can empower Dagam village to solve this problem. He realized that the crisis can be solved by following government’s model. The Government advised to construct bathrooms near the house at low-cost. But the bigger problem was getting a YES from the residents. Tapak then organized series of ‘sabhas’ to understand his people and their problems. He started with Bal sabha, Mahila Sabha and then moved to general sabha for men and elders of the village. These sabhas were conducted for almost 3 days. During these meetings Tapak explained the families how the adopted pigs can pass on severe infections to kids in the house. The women in the house agreed, men in few houses objected this as they did not want women to come out for defecation. Only through resilience of Tapak the entire village agreed to the new way of sanitation. The government allocates funding of 4500INR for each house, In Dagam there are around three to four families living in each house. Tapak along with other men in his village managed to build each bathroom for 3300 INR and distributed the rest of the amount in each house. After this project every house in Dagam , has a bathroom ,a separate place for pigs and a small garden to grow vegetables. This project was completed in one month for 120 households populated by 572 people.
Tapak says Government of India has great plans to improve the sanitation in villages. Now having addressed this problem, Dagam village is now the role model for many; and one cannot complain about the picturesque place. And the climate of Arunachal Pradesh is just a add-on to the attraction. Tapak has won Nirmal Gram Puraskar in 2012 for his work in Dagam. Initially while handling the responsibilities of Sarpanch, he had a bigger problem saying No to people who approached him for various jobs without proper education. Overall tapak says he is still learning and want to innovate more to make Dagam a tourist attraction, as of now with his research fruits and vegetables are sent to other places for commercial purposes. The lifestyle of people in this village has also improved. Tapak firmly believes in new technology.
Tapak is now a yatri for the first time, while talking about his experiences from Yatra he says, “this Yatra has helped me in meeting likeminded people” and he now has some ideas to work back home on technology advancement.
When in Arunachal Pradesh, do visit Dagam. Tapak is coming up with a website for his future tourists, very soon.