Pratiksha : story of a little girl #kindnessmatters

In the suburbs of Delhi, the sun set over the small locality of janakpuri.2 Laxmi who was busy giving fodder to the cow heard some noise coming from the neighbor’s house. It seemed that a child was wailing. She decided to finish her work and pay them a visit. Laxmi’s neighbors were the kind ones who entertained guests with roohafza and homemade samosas. Laxmi used to visit them often as Mrs. Rajbala, the house lady used to teach her threadwork which she thoroughly enjoyed.

On opening the door, as was the tradition, Laxmi removed her shoes and went straight inside. Mrs. Rajbala was holding her granddaughter tightly, trying very hard to appease her. “What happened” asked Laxmi. “Why are you holding her like this, Aunty”to which Mrs. Rajbala replied, “Gudiya has been crying the whole day. She refuses to eat or drink anything and Babu and Mala too aren’t home. I’ve given her janamgutti.”

Laxmi looked at Gudiya intently, feeling sad about her condition. ” Why don’t we take her to the doctor. Maybe he can help us.””I think we should.” Replied Mrs. Rajbala.” Dr. Taneja’s clinic is nearby and I’ve heard he is a very good doctor. Let’s take Gudiya to him.” Together Laxmi and Mrs. Rajbala wrapped Gudiya in a blanket, locked their respective houses and rushed to Dr. Taneja’s.

Dr. Taneja sat in his clinic surrounded by books. His demeanor was of a soft hearted man yet his skill was immaculate. Wide eyed Dr. Taneja looked at Gudiya and patted her belly gently. “It’s gastroenteritis. An infection of the gut.” Laxmi understood but Mrs. Rajbala could not. Puzzled she further questioned Dr. Taneja to which he very politely replied ” See, just like we live in this world, so do other animals like cows, sparrows and squirrels. These are animals we can see. Now there are some living beings which are so small that we cannot see them. They live in dirt and muck. And they can enter our bodies too, causing illness.” Mrs. Rajbala suddenly started to feel as if she had swallowed some unknown organism, yet she restrained her instinct to spit. Dr. Taneja wrote down some medications after which Laxmi and Mrs. Rajbala took his leave. While returning Laxmi picked up the medications from the chemist ” they live in dirt and muck ” ringing in her ears.

As she entered the locality a pile of garbage was there to greet her, a swarm of houseflies buzzing over it. Laxmi splashed her feet in the dirty swamp enjoying the spray and ran to her house.

Dr. Taneja arrived home at 9:30 pm, after finishing his evening clinic. For normal standards it’s late but for a pediatrician he wasn’t behind time. While having dinner, Seher, his daughter asked him the question she used to ask him everyday. ” How was your day, papa” to which he replied. ” I had a good day dear but the only disturbing part was that I saw close to 12 children with gastroenteritis today. ” Oh my God ” replied Seher. ” That is horrible. Where do these children belong to, papa. Is it really unhygienic there?”  To which Dr. Taneja replied. ” You want to see where these children come from. I’ll take you there, dear.”

The next day, it being a sunday, Seher remembered her father’s promise. She was up, dressed and set to go where Dr. Taneja was taking her.On her arrival, she could smell the stench of rotting refuse. As she moved further into the locality tears welled up in her eyes when she saw human feces lying in the open. Lack of sanitation and absence of any waste disposal system was what she observed. In addition to this she saw womenfolk making cow dung cakes.How primitive were we she thought in her heart. Drains stagnant with putrid water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies, piles of garbage and no clean water. These things troubled her. She couldn’t hold back her tears and wept profusely. Dr. Taneja got alarmed. ” Is this my India, can’t we do something about it Papa. Why are these beautiful people subjected to such misery”

Dr. Taneja saw Seher’s kind face and the light of compassion shine in her eyes and for a moment felt very proud of her. ” We will do something dear” Holding her hand they went back home.

Laxmi rushed to school early in the morning, dangling her satchel behind her back. As the classes started Ms. Asha, her science teacher started to talk about the Swacch Bharat abhiyan. Laxmi read about it intently and thought ” Will there be toilets in our locality someday. How wonderful would it feel not to defecate out in the open ”

In the meanwhile Seher’s mind was racing. What should I do ? How should I stop this injustice. It had to be a clever innovation. Rummaging her mind the cogitation hit eureka. Seher knew what she had to do. It was a Mobile Toilet. She simply had to design a Mobile Toilet and park it anywhere and everywhere, there wasn’t one. She saw in the news what Pm Modi’s Swacch Bharat abhiyan was all about, and now she was going to innovate and help him. In sync with her firm belief that sewage should be viewed as a valuable resource she started to focus on generating a clean alternative form of energy in order to achieve the 6th goal of sustainable development : clean water and sanitation. The very next day she sat with her teacher and discussed the project at school.

A mobile toilet attached to a solar energy driven vehicle will come in the morning and will be parked at a busy area in the city as well as remote areas around.

There will be separate toilets for males and females as well as for passing urine and stools so as to attempt to segregate the type of waste at the source.

The door of the toilet will  open only in two conditions

  • If there is water in the toilets indicated by a blue light flashing at the entrance
  • If the solid waste has not overfilled which will be indicated by a red light which if on, indicates that the toilet door will not open.

These prerequisites would ensure water availability prior to use.

When the blue light is glowing, if the user will press the button outside, the door will open for his use.

The magnetized door will close as soon as the user enters. As soon as the door opens, a pre-recorded message will play and invite the user to the toilet and guide him how to use it. This feature has been introduced for illiterate people who cannot identify the written messages and for first time users.

To motivate the people to flush and inculcate a hygienic civic code of using a public commodity, there will be two buttons inside which will be pressed depending on the type of usage. If someone has passed urine, Button 1 will be pressed to allow 1.5 liters of water to flush. However if someone has passed stools 4.5 litres of water will be released to clean the toilet.

It is only after the toilet has been flushed that the door will open automatically to allow the person outside.

Thus unless and until the user flushes, his /her door would not open for him to exit. This special feature will encourage people to flush and keep the toilet clean for other users.

The lights in the van will automatically switch on when it becomes dark and not otherwise.

There will be a help button installed near the mobile toilet to ensure that messages for help are taken by the control room. For example if the water supply in the tank finishes i.e, the blue light is off or the sludge tank is full i.e red light is on,  a complaint can be registered so that action can be prompt.

The toilet will be constructed as Asian squat seat to reduce the chances of infection and contamination. However, a toilet chair will be available for physically differently abled people for ease of use.

At night, the mobile vehicle will come again at 10:30pm to collect the mobile toilet and take it back to the station.

Though unmanned, daily cleanliness of the toilets will be ensured by getting it back at the station at night.

The collected excreta will be taken for disposal in a nearby deputed area. The solid waste will be directed towards production of biogas whereas the urine will be processed to generate electricity.

A fixed- dome type of biogas plant will be used for production of biogas which requires only locally and easily available materials for construction so inexpensive and easy to construct. The biogas produced has a high calorific value, provides clean fuel, can be supplied through pipelines, burns readily, reduces burden on forests and fossil fuels in villages, provides nutrient rich (N & P) manure for plants thus doing away with the organic fertilizers.

Urine has 95% water and 2% urea. I plan to produce electricity from urine based on the principle of Electrolysis. Urea is less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules. To break the molecule down, a voltage of 0.37V needs to be applied across the cell – much less than the 1.23V needed to split water.  When urine is electrolysed, Hydrogen gas will be produced at the cathode which will be passed through a water filter to purify the hydrogen gas. The gas will then be passed through a cylinder and liquefied at low temperature and high pressure. Borax cylinder will remove rest of the moisture and electricity will be produced when it passes thought he generator.

It is postulated that one litre of urine can produce enough hydrogen gas to run an electrical generator. A gasoline fueled generator needs about seven litres of that fuel to run for the same length of time. The installation cost is low for the urine generator when compared with the other generators. It is pollution less and it does not produce the harmful gases.

Mandeep maam, Seher’s teacher could not believe what she was hearing. It was like someone had come up with the best solution for solving one of India’s biggest problems. Patting Seher on her back, she told her to keep it up.


In the meanwhile, Mrs. Mandeep decided to put up Seher’s project for competing amongst young innovators. It made it to the top 30 innovations of the country and was showcased on the eve of the national technology day, in the form of a booklet. Seher’s idea for published in the March 2018 newsletter of the Atal innovation mission.

She attended a bootcamp and learnt about 3 D printing, laser cutting, IOTs, robotics, CAD model, designing etc. She then got invited to showcase her project at IIT Bombay. Laxmi’s dream of attaining the 6th SDG was coming true through Seher’s eyes. Finally, Seher’s project made it to the top 100 in the country under the AIM mission

She presented the project at VIGYAN BHAVAN. It made it to the top 30 in the form of PRATIKSHA : EK PAHAL : A NEW DAWN IN SANITATION : A HUMBLE ATTEMPT. wherein she extended the scope of her project to Urban slums and rural areas.

Laxmi saw a documentary made by the NDTV and was thrilled to see what Seher was doing. She wanted to meet her. It was in IIT Delhi that the innovation bus was launched called the shuruaat bus, an initiative of the global education and leadership foundation supported by the Atal mission that Laxmi got an opportunity to see Seher. She thanked her for being kind enough to think about the problems of others and come up with novel solutions.

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