The things to attend to in the villages are cleaning- tanks and wells and keeping them clean, getting rid of dung-heaps. If the workers will begin the work themselves, working like paid Bhangis from day to day and always letting the villagers know that they are expected to join them so as ultimately to do the whole work themselves, they may be sure that they will find that the villagers will soonea or later co-operate.
Lanes and streets have to be cleansed of all the rubbish, which should be
classified. There are portions which can be turned into manure, portions
which have simply to be buried and portions which can be directly turned
into wealth. Every bone picked up is valuable raw material from which useful
articles can be made or which can be crushed into rich manure. Rags and
waste-paper can be turned into paper, and excreta picked up are golden
manure for the village fields. The way to treat the excreta is to mix them,
liquid as well as solid, with superficial earth in soil dug no deeper than
one foot at the most. In his book on rural hygiene, Dr. Poore says that
excreta should be buried in earth no deeper than nine to twelve inches (I am
quoting from memory). The author contends that superficial earth is
charged with minute life, which, together with light and air which easily
penetrate it, turn the excreta into good soft sweet-smelling soil within a
week. Any villager can test this for himself. The way to do it is either to
have fixed latrines, with earthen or iron buckets, and empty the contents in
properly prepared places from day to day, or to perform the function
directly on to the ground dug up in squares, The excreta can either be
buried in a village common or in individual fields. This can only be done by
the cooperation of the villagers. At the worst, an enterprising villager
can collect the excreta and turn them into wealth for himself. At present,
this rich manure, valued at lakhs of rupees, runs to waste every day, fouls
the air and brings disease into the bargain.
Village tanks are promiscuously used for bathing, washing clothes, and
drinking and cooking purposes. Many village tanks are also used by cattle.
Buffaloes are often to be seen wallowing in them. The wonder is that, in
spite of this sinful misuse of village tanks, villages have not been
destroyed by epidemics. It is the universal medical evidence that this
neglect to ensure purity of the water supply of villages is responsible for
many of the diseases suffered by the villagers.
This, it will be admitted, is a gloriously interesting and instructive service,
fraught with incalculable benefit to the suffering humanity of India. I hope
it is clear from my description of the way in which the problem should be
tackled, that, given willing workers who will wield the broom and the shovel
with the same ease and pride as the pen and the pencil, the question of
expense is almost wholly eliminated. All the outlay that will be required is
confined to a broom, a basket, a shovel and pick-axe, and possibly some
disinfectant. Dry ashes are, perhaps, as effective a disinfectant as any
that a chemist can supply. But here let philanthropic chemists tell us what
is the most effective and cheap village disinfectant that villagers can
improvise in their villages.