The Times of India
Meet the Boston woman who builds toilets in UP
Having grown up in both under-privileged and privileged classes in the States, Marta says her idea about the difference in the two classes shaped her view of the world.
NEW DELHI: India draws epithets mostly of two kinds from foreigners. Indophiles call it ‘exotic’ for its rich multi-culturalism, mysticism, spirituality and other cliched reasons. Yet, others scathingly dub it as a ‘dump’ for its egregious lack of sanitation, infrastructure and development. Some go as far as calling India a ‘shithole’ ‘drowning in its own excreta’.
But an American Ph.D student Marta Vanduzer-Snow (34) moved to rural India three years ago thinking that India needed a different approach altogether—”To be an invisible human who makes a difference on the ground.”
The result—Marta, a Rutgers University scholar who grew up in Boston, got 82 low-cost evapotranspiration toilets in homes and 1 in a primary school and 10 feet wide 122 meters permeable roads constructed, all at half or one-third the cost of similar governmental projects in the villages of Rai Bareli and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Each government toilet, built under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that aims to eliminate open defecation by Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th anniversary in October 2019, costs about Rs.17000, but the evapotranspiration toilet that Marta has brought to the villages costs only Rs. 9109. As against government’s Rs. 4 lakh per 100 meter of interlocking road, Marta’s 100 meter permeable road costs only Rs. 2 lakh.
A co-author of books and research papers with various academics, Marta has developed a theory for three-pronged strategy on development that integrates infrastructure, health and education. “I wanted a small scale model based on my theory that I could execute. So I did some research and found that Amethi and Rai Bareily had quite a few active self-help groups. I decided to learn, practice and contribute.”
An Amartya Sen development economics fan, Marta who spends her own personal resources on all these projects, has also set up 27 solar power plants, including two street lights and a mobile charger. One of the only villages in Rae Bareli boasts of being the beneficiary of night light set up by the do-gooder scholar. Marta also got French drains built, with rainwater harvesting techniques and has been working on myco-filtration systems for potable water.
Along with her programme coordinator Pawan Singh in some villages, she has also run literacy programs, written text books on English and organic farming, set up libraries and oversaw a pilot stage of four classrooms. The Rutgers scholar also run telehealth, ‘Mera Doctor’ a medical facility that offers 24×7 doctor-on-call service for free for a year to two villages.
Having grown up in both under-privileged and privileged classes in the States, Marta says her idea about the difference in the two classes shaped her view of the world. “The sharp difference was basically due to access or lack of access to opportunity,” she believes. The travels through Africa, Middle East, Asia and half a year she spent in Nepal running community service programs after high school confirmed her understanding of the difference in social classes. “But human life is about hope and how we look at future and what is possible for us. That is why I am doing what I am. ”
This Is Incredible India!