Shah Rukh Khan’s fictional portrayal of a shahri dude transforming a nondescript village in ‘Swades’ was something that could have been done in a film alone, right? Wrong!
Dr. Pawan Kumar Gulabrao Patil, an alumnus of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s School of Public Health (MPH, Community Health, 2014), is trying to improve people’s personal hygiene.
He came to Naxal-infested Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, in 2008 as part of a fellowship programme encouraging students to work in the areas affecting rural communities.
The good doctor chose the health sector.
He spent quite some time in the village to find out why a plethora of diseases, prominent among them diarrhea, affected the people.
Dr. Pawan discovered that the problem lay in how a small bar was being used – soap.
“It is not that they did not have soaps, they had everything from Lux to Santoor. But for them, soaps were for beautification and not to remove dirt.”
But how do you make an entire village understand the most essential utility of a soap?
The idea of Tippy Tap, a contraption designed in New Zealand, came to his mind.
It involves few sticks, soap, and a string to set up a low-cost hand washing device.
He renamed it “Nirmal” – the Hindi word for gentle.
Pawan put up the community’s first hand-washing device for just Rs.35.
And he employed the biggest marketing technique to get the people use Nirmal – religion.
He asked people to worship the device. This way he spread awareness at the same time urged people to use it.
In no time 83 Nirmal devices were set up in 16 villages across Maharashtra.
But Dr. Pawan would not have succeeded had it not been for the enthusiasm of the villagers.
This proves wrong those skeptics who blame the society for its problems. So, it is celebration time for the villagers as well.