The Settlement Improvement Committee (SIC) facilitated by PRIA in Lohar Basti, Ajmer in June 2016 is vibrant and vital. Its 21 members, 9 of whom are women, have worked in unison in order to develop a platform which facilitates and maintains basic public services like sanitation in the community. Recently, the SIC was successful in pushing the demand with Ajmer Municipal Corporation for mobile toilets in the settlement. Energised by this success, Lohar Basti SIC is now going to ensure the construction of community toilets promised to them by the municipal corporation.
Lohar Basti, a 40-year old community of settlers, remains a non-notified informal settlement of ward 42 in Ajmer. Over 100 people live in this settlement located on both sides of the road leading to Madar. Most of the men from the community work as blacksmiths and the women work as domestic workers. Youth from the community are employed in scrap collection and segregation units located close to the settlement.
The residents, mostly from the Lohar community, have connections with the district level association of Lohars as some association functionaries reside in Lohar Basti. A few of them are community leaders. The association is not very active, apart from organizing community events. In the past, it had approached the district administration for land and housing for the residents.
The SIC formed in Lohar Basti has allowed its residents to work together in order to achieve results that benefit the community. As there are no individual toilets in Lohar Basti, residents resort to open defecation. There is unfortunately not enough space to construct individual toilets. Hence, the SIC decided to pursue construction of community toilets within the settlement. They passed a resolution in an SIC meeting and prepared the application, submitting it to the municipal corporation. They have been pushing their demand through the local ward councillor as well. The SIC even made public land available for the toilet to be constructed. Municipal officials have conducted an initial survey of the land and have assured the community that the construction of community toilets will commence soon.
Why wait till the construction of the community toilet is completed for the settlement to become open defecation free? The SIC leaders suggested that municipal mobile toilets be stationed in Lohar Basti. Since late 2016, the residents of Lohar Basti have been using the municipal mobile toilet van.
Omkar Singh, a community leader, expressing his happiness said, “इतने साल तक हम लोग खुले में शौच कर रहे थे. इस मोबाइल टॉयलेट से हमारी समाज के लोगों को सुविधा हुई है और हम खुश है की हमें प्रिया संस्था का साथ मिल रहा है I हमे सार्वजनिक शौचालय की जरुरत है और हम सब मिलकर उसे बनवाने के लिए कोशिश करेंगे”.
The SIC has not rested on its laurels of ensuring the presence of mobile toilets in Lohar Basti. They want their settlement to be clean. As there was no place or arrangement for garbage collection, SIC members agreed that installing dustbins near their settlement would reduce the amount of garbage littering the streets of the settlement. The ward councillor and municipality were approached once again, with a demand for dustbins. Today, three dustbins place by the municipality in Lohar Basti hold pride of place in the community’s drive to be clean.
Lohar Basti SIC has now begun discussing and approaching authorities to install water pipes in the settlement. But the long-term goal of the SIC is to obtain land security for all residents of Lohar Basti.