Malumichampatti, a small village in Coimbatore is now nearly open defecation free. This campaign isn’t led by activists or by officials but by ‘kutty commandos’ - 12 Class 5 students belonging to the Panchayat Union Primary School.
A year ago, absenteeism was increasing at the Panchayat Union Primary School in Malumichampatti. Most students were skipping school, citing a stomach ache. The school ground had turned into a public toilet, with human faeces splattered across the field.
This was when headmistress Sati (47) stepped in, and decided to come up with an idea to end open defecation. The plan was to form a group of students to lead the campaign to spread awareness about open defecation.
“We had meetings with parents, the education committee and school monitoring committees. Parents of 10 students were ready to send their children to spread awareness about open defecation. We started this awareness programme six months ago, but in the last three months only, the students have been really interested in creating awareness,” said the headmistress of the school.
The ‘kutty commandos’ team later saw two more students join the campaign.
“All 12 students meet at 5:30am in the morning, divide into sets of two and then take rounds of the village. If they find anyone defecating openly, they start blowing their whistles and the person usually leaves the place,” said Sati.
However, it has not been easy for the ‘kutty commandos’. “Often elderly people start throwing stones or do not listen to the students. In that case, we inform the panchayat about it and then a panchayat member and the school authorities go and meet the person at their house and make them understand that they should not been doing this,” said Sati.
The collector has also appreciated the work of the school and done its part in helping end open defecation. “The government has built about 5200 toilets for the people in the village and for people who do not have space for toilets in their house, the district administration has built two public toilets in the village,” said the headmistress.
However, there are still a few people in the village who openly defecate. “We survey the areas and provide the names to the panchayat. When there are toilets in most of the house, what is the need to openly defecate?” asks the headmistress.
She added that the 'kutty commandos' will continue to do their job until their village becomes 100% free of open defecation.