As part of the Swachh Bharat mission, five states in India have been declared open defecation free (ODF). But crowd-funded toilets by people for themselves is something that is not heard of in India until one comes to Coimbatore. Started with the help of the district collector Vijayakarthikeyan, this collective effort by the people of Coimbatore has succeeded in building more than 3,000 toilets for the marginalised and economically vulnerable sections of the district.
Toiletfirst website was built two days after the idea took shape and it is now a mobile application that plays an instrumental role in allocating land for building toilets, in getting details regarding government fund for the toilets, and in tracking the condition of the toilets after they are built. Talking about the process involved in building toilets, Padmanaban Gopalan of No Food Waste explains,
An engineer who is joining the project will build one sample toilet first. Once the quality check of that toilet is completed, 10-15 more toilets will be allotted to him or her. An engineer who joins the project for the first time will build one toilet first. This way, though they do it as volunteers, they get training and experience.
Thousands of volunteers — college students, engineers, graduates, and social entrepreneurs — are involved in building the toilets. Padmanaban played a key role in building the website and the app. When toilets are built in areas where people do not understand the importance of using them, most of them are turned into warehouses. To prevent that, people who will be the beneficiaries and students from the community are involved as volunteers to make sure that there is increased awareness.
The government provides Rs 8,000 for the building of each toilet and the rest is collected from the sponsors. More people started actively participating after Toieltfirst built 600 toilets in two months successfully and it started gaining momentum through social media. The plan is to make Coimbatore ODF in the year 2018 with the help of three TTTs — Transparency, Technology, and Teamwork.
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